COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Tim Beck was the offensive coordinator at Nebraska from 2011 through 2014 and helped recruit many current Huskers, including Tommy Armstrong, Jordan Westerkamp, Cethan Carter and Drew Brown.
Coach Urban Meyer said he and Beck had a brief conversation this week, with the understanding that Beck wouldn’t have much insider information on what NU has been running offensively or defensively the past two seasons.
“He’s been out a couple of years, I guess, but he knows a lot of the personnel,” Meyer said Wednesday after practice. “So obviously, schematically, zero, but personnel he can give you a little insight on guys. Nothing you can’t see on videotape. It was about a four-minute conversation, then we moved on.”
Proud of Armstrong
Armstrong was one topic of conversation between Meyer and Beck.
“Obviously,” Meyer said, “he’s an incredible player.”
Beck was the coach primarily responsible for recruiting Armstrong to Lincoln from Cibolo, Texas, and he’s proud of what his former charge has accomplished.
“Obviously, I had him when he was a lot younger as a redshirt freshman and that,” Beck said Wednesday as he was surrounded by reporters after Ohio State’s practice. “He’s grown up a lot and he’s really playing well for them. I’m really proud of him.
“He’s obviously changed in their system. It’s a different time and a different offense, so it’s a lot harder to say ‘This is what he does.’ ”
Carter making progress
Beck’s successor as NU’s offensive coordinator, Danny Langsdorf, opened Wednesday’s press conference in Lincoln with an update on senior tight end Cethan Carter, saying he is running well and looks good.
“It’s good to see him out there and it’s nice to have him back,” Langsdorf said. “So far so good. We’ll see a little bit more tomorrow, but I think we’re going to be OK.”
Langsdorf added the team would have a better idea by Friday whether Carter will play at Ohio State, but the practice was another step toward getting him back on the field.
Having Carter in the lineup would make it harder to double-cover other targets in the passing game, Langsdorf said.
Carter has not played since injuring an elbow against Illinois on Oct. 1.
Knevel misses practice
NU coaches are monitoring the status of right tackle David Knevel this week with right guard Tanner Farmer already missing from the offensive line.
Line coach Mike Cavanaugh called Knevel day-to-day, and declined to discuss Husker plans if the junior is not ready Saturday night.
Knevel missed practice on Wednesday for the second straight day.
Sophomore Cole Conrad from Fremont Bergan has replaced Knevel after injuries in two previous games.
Farmer will be replaced by fifth-year senior Corey Whitaker, who took over after Farmer suffered a severe ankle sprain just a few plays into the Wisconsin game.
“He hasn’t played a lot, but what I like about Corey is he’s a smart guy, he prepares and he’s a tough, tough dude,” Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh said the NU line played hard at Wisconsin, but is looking to be steadier.
“We just got to get consistent,” he said. “there’s good and then there’s bad, so the consistency factor’s huge.”
Buckeyes to honor Foltz
Before Meyer began his post-practice press conference in Columbus, details were provided to the media about ways the Buckeyes plan Saturday to honor the memory of Nebraska punter Sam Foltz.
Three tributes were revealed, and another is being kept under wraps until an hour or so before kickoff.
A roughly 2-foot by 3-foot plaque with Foltz’s name and No. 27 will be placed in the tunnel area outside the Husker locker room at Ohio Stadium.
The Buckeyes are posting a similar plaque outside their locker room to honor the memory of John Hicks, a former Ohio State offensive lineman whom coach Woody Hayes said was “the greatest interior lineman I have ever coached.”
In the stands, Foltz will be honored by OSU’s Block O group, the largest student organization at the school and the official student section of the Buckeyes, with a card stunt. The Ohio State band also will spell out SF and 27 at the conclusion of its halftime performance.
Beck said he’s glad to see Foltz being honored by the Buckeyes.
“It was quite a shock for all of us who knew him,” Beck said. “To be able to keep his spirit alive, and what he meant to the game of football, and how he gave a lot back to the community with younger kids and the things he did, it’s really special.”
Primed for prime time
The Buckeyes have played three prime-time games this season, facing Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Penn State.
None of those games was at Ohio Stadium, so Saturday’s Top 10 clash with Nebraska is a game that players, fans and coaches have been pointing to since the time slot was announced.
For Meyer, it’s a chance to face another team with a rich football tradition. When Meyer first coached against a Nebraska team — OSU’s 63-38 victory in 2012 — he remembered it being a special experience for him.
Just seeing the white helmets with the red N on them reminded Meyer of all the games he watched when Tom Osborne was leading the Huskers for 25 seasons.
“Nebraska is a tradition-rich program,” Meyer said. “I remember the first time I coached against them; it was my first year here. Ohio State versus Nebraska. Obviously, people will be peeking in on that one because it’s two Top 10 teams. We have a slew of recruits coming in. It’s going to be a busy weekend.”
Nebraska wide receivers coach Keith Williams minced no words when praising Ohio State’s secondary.
“Those guys are real athletic,” Williams said. “Athletic, fast. They have all the attributes you want in a good cornerback, good secondary. Well-coached. Play hard. They got it all.”
The Buckeyes have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 47.4 percent of their passes this season, and have returned four interceptions for touchdowns. Williams said OSU’s secondary plays “in unison.”
Stan’s the man
Sophomore wideout Stanley Morgan has emerged as the Huskers’ leader in catches (23) and yards (329) after a career-high five catches for 58 yards at Wisconsin. Morgan had received more targets in the two-game absence of Westerkamp, but against the Badgers, Morgan saw five passes thrown his way in fourth quarter and overtime combined. He caught four of them; the last pass — on the game’s last play — fell incomplete.
Williams said Morgan, if he had a chance to do it over, could perhaps have made that final play, as difficult as it would have been with an underthrown pass from Armstrong.
“He did have a shot at it,” Williams said. “It was a tough grab, but it’s one that he can make. He might have been able to attack it a little bit if he sensed that safety coming.”
Morgan’s mature mentality — and relentless work ethic — give Williams confidence that Morgan would make that play if he had another chance at it. Williams said Morgan’s mother and Morgan’s high school — New Orleans St. Augustine — instilled some of that work ethic in him, but he said Morgan has an innate passion, too.
“You’re born with that soul and that mindset and that natural approach to things,” Williams said. “… I believe he’s born that way. It’s really rare. I don’t think it’s a football thing. I think it’s a personal thing. I think he played badminton, he’d be out there slamming the birdie down really hard and breaking rackets. I think it’s him. And he just happens to play football. So it really fits.”
Nebraska’s offense was tested Saturday at Wisconsin and will now face an Ohio State defense that, in some areas, is ranked higher nationally than the Badgers.
Langsdorf said top to bottom, the Buckeyes have talented personnel.
“We’ve got to be able to cover them up and get some yards early and then protect the quarterback and go after them,” Langsdorf said.
Ohio State’s defensive line is very deep, Langsdorf said, rotating eight players. He also commented on the speed of pass rushers on the edge, specifically freshman defensive end Nick Bosa, who is second on the team with four sacks and the younger brother of NFL rookie Joey Bosa.
To contain Nick Bosa, Langsdorf said, the offensive line must make sure he is not left one-on-one with a tackle.
“I just think we have to be very aware of their pass rushers and make sure we do a good job of chipping him and helping those tackles,” Langsdorf said.
Ohio State ranks ninth nationally in pass defense, allowing only 171.1 yards per game. Langsdorf said OSU will have the best secondary Nebraska has faced this season.
The group is led by sophomore safety Malik Hooker, who is tied for seventh in the country with four interceptions totaling 117 yards.
Nebraska must take advantage of man-to-man coverage, Langsdorf said, but protecting Armstrong will be a key factor in the passing game.
Langsdorf wants balance
In September Langsdorf said he wanted to see a balance of 60 percent run and 40 percent pass plays.
When asked if that is what he plans for Saturday’s game at Ohio State, Langsdorf said it would be a good factor.
“If we can have some success running the ball it always helps us,” Langsdorf said. “Establishing that early and getting positive gains will be big.”
Having completions on first and second downs are important, Langsdorf said, but having success running the ball early will take pressure off of the passing game.
So far this season, Nebraska has 363 rushing attempts and 223 pass attempts, a 62-38 split.Two teams have had the same split in their game against Ohio State this season. The first was Wisconsin, who lost 23-30 in overtime three weeks ago. The second was Penn State, who beat the Buckeyes 24-21.
» Quarterback Tommy Armstrong will talk to the media Thursday.