Hot Reads: Spielman
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Hot Reads: Spielman, Ozigbo Ranked Among Big Ten’s Best

October 18, 2018

Per Pro Football Focus's player grades Nebraska wide receiver JD Spielman and running back Devine Ozigbo were among the top two or three players at their position in the Big Ten over the first half of the season. 

Here's a primer on how PFF grades players, which is worth a read if you want to understand a little bit about what's happening with these grades. I can't imagine many are surprised to find Spielman here –– you could've predicted that with reasonable confidence at the start of the season –– but Ozigbo out-grading high-profile Ohio State backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, Penn State's Miles Sanders (second-leading rusher in the Big Ten) and Maryland stats-machine Ty Johnson among others is as impressive a performance as any for the Huskers over the first half of the season.

What vaults Ozigbo ahead of some higher-profile Big Ten backs? He's tough to tackle and moves the chains. Ozigbo "averages a very healthy 4.07 yards after contact per attempt as 26 of his 73 carries have either gone for a first down or a touchdown," per PFF. Among Nebraska's regular offensive contributors, Ozigbo's marginal efficiency is the highest. Plays involving the senior running back have had a success rate that's 13.8 percentage points higher than expected based on down, distance and field position.

No wonder Scott Frost was calling his number on fourth-and-1 in the overtime (before that fell apart).

Spielman's spot on the midseason all-conference team wouldn't have been a shocking prediction in the summer after a freshman season that saw him go for 800-plus yards. PFF notes that Spielman "has racked up 390 yards after the catch." That's 390 of 537 yards this season, 72.6 percent. His marginal efficiency is solid for a wide receiver, but explosiveness is really what Spielman brought to the table over the first six games.

They've been sorely needed big passing plays, too. Nebraska ranks 24th nationally in overall explosive-plays percentage (17.83%), but most of the damage has been done on the ground where the Huskers rank 11th in explosive rushes (19.74%). Nebraska ranks 71st on the passing side (15.81%).

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