The Nebraska Cornhuskers enter this contest against the Ohio State Buckeyes ranked 43rd overall in total defense (355 yards per game) behind their new 3-4 defensive scheme, but surrendered 353 yards rushing on 49 carries (7.2 yards per carry) last week to Wisconsin.
Leading tackler Aaron Williams is questionable with a neck injury.
Offensively, the Huskers rank 85th in total offense (384 yards per game).
They likely will be without running backs Tre Bryant and Mikale Wilbon due to injury, and will lean on Devine Ozigbo to carry the load.
Quarterback Tanner Lee has 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions thus far in 2017. Look for the Huskers to establish easy throws to gain confidence in their starter, predominately in the form of a tunnel screen the Huskers utilize with the slot receivers.
Devine Ozigbo (#22)
A big-bodied runner, Ozigbo uses his size to his advantage by running with very good pad level. He does not have breakaway speed, nor will he make you miss in the open field, but he is very good at running “North and South” and will take multiple defenders to bring him down. The Buckeyes will need to utilize good tackling fundamentals to limit the yards after contact. Ozigbo is not utilized in the passing game, aside from check-downs.
De’Mornay Pierson-El (#15)
A very good athlete with a thick frame, Pierson-El is a playmaker with the ball in his hands. He uses good speed and very good agility to create space both in the passing game as well as in the return game. He is a polished route runner and uses good head fakes to sell the routes and has very good play strength to win contested catches. Do not expect him to fair catch on punt returns, he is fearless and looks to make plays any chance he gets.
Tanner Lee (#13)
A member of the preseason “All-Hype” team, Tanner Lee has failed to live up to early-season expectations. He has thrown 10 interceptions thus far, but looking at the game film and not the box score shows some bad luck has contributed to a number of interceptions. Lee has a solid frame and strong arm who will push the ball downfield. He is a risk taker and trusts that his arm strength will ultimately prevail. Has above average mobility but is not a threat to take over a game with his running ability, instead uses his mobility to extend plays and move out of the pocket. He struggles with poise as his footwork will escape him when the pocket gets messy and is inconsistent with accuracy on all levels. He puts a lot of air under his deep throws and will be late to deliver on time.
Joshua Kalu (#46)
One of my favorite players to watch in the Big 10. Kalu is a physical safety who thrives at the line of scrimmage. He has a thin frame and long arms and plays with very good competitive toughness. He often looks to support the run first and flies downhill to fill running lanes. Kalu is utilized on a number of blitz packages. In coverage, Kalu shows good instincts and the ability to “click and close” when reacting to a pass. Will need to improve his open field tackling for the Huskers to limit the big play potential of the Buckeyes.
Mick Stoltenberg (#44)
If there was ever a poster child for the term “Corn Fed”, it’s Mick Stoltenberg. A Nebraska native, Mick is the centerpiece in the 3-4 scheme of the Huskers due to his size and strength. He is able to manipulate blockers to control gaps largely because of his ability to lockout his arms and create space to maneuver. An Academic All-Big 10 athlete, Mick shows very good mental processing to read and diagnose plays from the trenches. Expect to see #44 in the middle of the action on run down situations where he can use his burst off the ball and upper body strength to move the line of scrimmage.
Other Nebraska Notables
Luke Gifford (#12) 6’3” 235 OLB- The emotional leader of the defense. A “high motor” player who uses good speed and effort to make plays and does very well to avoid blockers in pursuit.
Chris Jones (#8) 6’0” 195 CB- The Huskers’ best defensive back, rumored to return this week from Meniscus surgery. Very good athlete with good speed and ball skills. Struggles in run support and is not a physical or aggressive specimen.
Stanley Morgan Jr. (#8) 6’1” 195 WR- Speed demon who will be used in various ways. Creates yardage after the catch but has inconsistent hands.