Our countdown of the 10 most intriguing Huskers of the 2022 season is back with the top five.
If you need a refresher on the players (and one coach) so far in the countdown, you can find them all right here:
No. 10 Tommi Hill | No. 9 Marques Buford Jr. | No. 8 Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda | No. 7 Trey Palmer | No. 6 Anthony Grant | No. 5 Ty Robinson | No. 4 OL Turner Corcoran/Teddy Prochazka| No. 3 OC Mark Whipple
Before we dive into discussing our latest pick, let’s clarify something first: What do we mean by intriguing? Oxford Languages defines intriguing as arousing one’s curiosity or interest. In other words, fascinating. Which 10 Huskers fascinate you the most heading into the season? That’s what we’re trying to figure out.
We’re getting closer to the top spot on the list but we have one more player to look at before then. Let’s dive into what makes edge rusher Ochaun Mathis so intriguing heading into 2022.
Ochaun Mathis—the coveted edge rusher from TCU—announced his intention to transfer to Nebraska on April 30. His addition to the team was intriguing then and it’s intriguing now.
First, Nebraska’s pass rush needs help. The Huskers finished 12th in the Big Ten in sacks with 20 in the 2021 season. Mathis provides an immediate boost to Nebraska as an edge rusher, bringing plenty of experience with him to Lincoln.
Mathis spent four season at TCU before entering the transfer portal in mid-January. He left Forth Worth, Texas, as a second-team All-Big 12 selection in both 2021 and 2020 and recorded 135 tackles, 30.5 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks and four pass breakups in his career with the Horned Frogs.
In his final season at TCU in 2021, Mathis started all 12 games for the Horned Frogs. He tallied 45 tackles, 4.0 sacks and 7.0 tackles for loss, tying the team lead in sacks, ranked second in TFLs, third in pass breakups (3) and fifth in tackles (45).
Nebraska wasn’t in a terrible spot on the edge heading into 2022, but Mathis gives the Huskers another solid option alongside Garrett Nelson and Caleb Tannor. In 2021, Nelson saw career-highs in tackles (57), tackles for loss (11.5) and sacks (5) while Tannor had career-highs in tackles (33) and tackles for loss (5.5). Add Mathis’ stats to that and the potential gets exciting quick.
But Mathis also knows the Big Ten is different than the Big 12. Four Big Ten teams in 2021—Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin–averaged 40 or more rushing attempts per game. Only two in the Big 12—Baylor and Oklahoma State—did the same. In 2020, that number was seven in the Big Ten and two in the Big 12.
That meant an emphasis was placed on the weight room for Mathis after his arrival in Lincoln.
“Coming in and being able to put on muscle mass and keep the speed, but build on top of it is one of my biggest things to work on,” Mathis said on a Sports Nightly appearance in early June.
Mathis—who stands at 6-foot-5—has put on a little weight since he arrived at Nebraska. TCU listed him at 257 pounds. The Huskers now have him at 260. It’s probably splitting hairs a bit, but worth a note anyway.
Here’s the thing about Mathis: we could sit here all day listing off his accomplishments and why those accomplishments are intriguing for Nebraska in 2022. There’s no denying his talent and there’s no denying he could be an impactful player for the Huskers. However, Mathis’ potential goes beyond his on-field accomplishments. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like Mathis has bought into life as a Husker.
An example? Take a recent tweet following Nebraska’s annual football road race.
— Ochaun Mathis (@OchaunDevon) July 17, 2022
He’s also been quick to respond to fans on Twitter, telling some that he’s loving Lincoln and telling others that he wants Nebraska to win as badly as them. That’s never a bad sign when looking for how someone is settling in to a new program, especially if that approach and perspective can impact others in the locker room.
For now, Husker fans should keep an eye on the watch lists. Mathis has been named to a few in his career already, including the Rotary Lombardi Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award and Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch lists in 2021. Could he find his way on to a list or two again in 2022? It’s probable.
All in all, Mathis has been intriguing from the moment he picked the Nebraska hat over the Texas hat in late April. Will his success at TCU translate at Nebraska?
We’ll certainly find out soon, and that’s plenty intriguing.
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.