Nebraska’s next opponent, Michigan State, will present different problems than Oklahoma did according to Husker inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud, who made an appearance on Sports Nightly Thursday.
The No. 20 Spartans (3-0) will rely on a tough, physical ground-and-pound attack and focus on ball control. That’s a tad different than Oklahoma’s big-play mentality on offense. Momentum is a huge factor in college football, Ruud said, and turnovers help spark it. That’s something he wishes the Huskers would’ve came up with last week in Norman.
“We gotta be a little tighter in run fits for sure,” Ruud said of the Michigan State game. “We have to tackle better this week and we have to force turnovers on defense. That’s one thing I thought was really disappointing, we didn’t get that turnover or two.”
Nebraska is tied for ninth in the Big Ten in turnover margin with a plus-5. The Huskers haven’t had a turnover since the Buffalo game.
Tackling was a topic that Ruud touched on as well. He didn’t think the defense executed particularly well in that area against the Sooners.
“I think for the most part, when those guys reviewed the film, they saw a couple good plays they made but more of it was on us with our leverage, our techniques,” Ruud said. “Just because you’re playing a good team doesn’t mean you can change your technique. We’ve been pretty solid tackling all year, and I thought this was probably our poorest tackling game.”
Nebraska’s defensive line has done well this season, Ruud said. The assistant coach said that when the d-line is playing well, linebackers usually are, too.
“If they’re getting off the ball, if they’re collecting double teams, that’s usually when we’re free to make tackles,” Ruud said. “I don’t care if it’s Ray Lewis or whoever playing linebacker, if guys are getting up to them all the time, they’re not making as many plays. When the d-line is getting off the ball and occupying blockers, it makes life easier for the second level and I think they’ve done a nice job of that this year.”
Do any of his current linebackers remind Ruud of himself during his playing days? The former Husker who played eight years in the NFL didn’t name a player, but did say that he hopes he’s forming habits that are similar to his own when he played.
“What I’m proud of with my guys is I think there are some similarities as far as I’m making them very habit-oriented, and they all have routines whether they like it or not,” Ruud said. “They know what they’re doing all day. So that part, I think, they are starting to be a little bit like me as far as being finicky and habit-oriented.”
One of the linebackers who has been performing well this season is Luke Reimer, the former walk-on who leads the team with 35 tackles. How long did it take to figure out Reimer deserved to be a scholarship player? Probably the first individual drill he watched, Ruud said.
“Shows you how good of an evaluator I am as a recruiter,” Ruud joked, “a guy who lives about 10 minutes away, got him as a walk-on and he’s probably going to be an all-conference-type guy at some point.”
More news and notes:
>> Michigan State’s receivers are really good deep threats, Ruud said, who have caught some “shot balls.” The Spartans’ top-two receivers, Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor, have 277 and 141 receiving yards, respectively, and have both caught three touchdowns. “The biggest thing that stands out to me with their receivers is their willingness to block and they’ve made some explosive plays down the field,” Ruud said. “You can see what coach (Mel) Tucker wants to do, he wants to pound the ball and take shots over your head.”
>> What kind of a player was longtime Kansas City Royal Alex Gordon, who was also Ruud’s high school teammate at Lincoln Southeast? “Natural football player, he played wide receiver and cornerback.” Ruud said. Ruud remembered that on Southeast’s punt team, Gordon was the long snapper while Jake Muhleisen—who went on to play for the Nebraska basketball team—was the punter. That’s two future Husker captains for their respective teams.
>> Who makes the final decision on the who gets a Blackshirt? “Ultimately it’s coach (Scott) Frost who will say yes or no over the whole thing,” Ruud said.
>> Ruud said York, Nebraska, native Garrett Snodgrass is a joy to coach. “You can tell he’s a coach’s kid. He’s like a sponge, soaks everything up.”
>> Ruud said that it’s a sad situation with outside linebacker Javin Wright, who will likely be out for the season after a blood clot issue. “Hopefully it ends up being a deal where he can come back and still continue his career,” Ruud said. “It’s a tough deal what he’s going through right now.”