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Let’s talk Illinois…

One Hit Wonder

Recruit
2 Year Member
A few quotes from last week’s write up…

@HuskerWeatherman wrote, “Northern Illinois has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in their last 17 games.”
Great stat provided by HW. Nebraska knocked that trophy off their shelf.

“Nebraska needs to play a complete game from top to bottom; put their foot on NIU’s throat and don’t let up until the clock shows 00:00…”
Nebraska took a big step towards playing a full 60 minutes last Saturday. I really liked the goal-line stand with 1:30 remaining in the game. Defense in those situations is really satisfying to me.

“NIU really likes to use their TE and they have been targeted several times in the first two games.”
This is something Nebraska’s defense needs to continue to work on. Colorado and Northern Illinois had some good success with their TEs and WRs going underneath. Illinois likes to use their TEs and will try the same thing.

“Executing a true RPO means (one example) holding the ball in the RBs gut until the DE commits and then pulling it out and either run or throw.”
The Martinez TD run was perfect. Held the ball in the RBs gut and once the DE committed, he was able to cruise into the end zone. The RPO should be very effective this weekend.

On to the scouting report…
Head coach Lovie Smith is in his 4th year at Illinois. He’s played a lot of younger guys and has dealt with roster turnover so he jumped head first in the transfer portal and has at least 12 transfers on his team. Sitting at 2-1, their best win is Akron which is probably the worst D1 team in the country and very little can be gleaned from that win. Eastern Michigan (EMU) beat Illinois by going over the top and mixing up some underneath routes and running some misdirection, zone and counter. EMU should have beaten them by 20+ but they went away from some of their schemes which allowed Illinois to make the game close.

Offense
Nebraska will face yet another pro spread offense as Illinois lines up primarily in a single back and a TE in the slot/H with the QB in the gun. They use plenty of pre-snap motion and the H/TE (quite often) goes in motion and is generally utilized as an extra blocker on the edge but can release into a route. The RB can break from the backfield pre-snap to give Illinois an empty look. The offense seems simplistic and utilizes a lot of zone running and stretch plays. They will try to work out routes and get the TE down field.

QB
At QB, Michigan transfer #18 Brandon Peters (6' 5" 220lbs) throws a good ball when given time. He’s a bit flat footed and not looking to run but he will when forced and there’s a reason why Illinois goes with a lot of quick 2 and 3 step drops. Watching Peters reminds me so much of Tanner Lee (not in a good way). When he’s pressured, he isn’t fluid and loses pocket presence; misses or ignores check-downs; telegraphs throws; and has a hint of a noodle arm.

RB
#2 Reggie Corbin
(5' 10" 200lbs) is a shifty and speedy back and has good upper body strength. He missed the U Conn game (hip pointer) and was dinged up v. EMU but still ran for 144 yards. #25 Dre Brown (5' 11" 210lbs) is more of a north/south runner. The RBs will slip out of the backfield in screens and bubbles. Nebraska needs to get low and wrap these guys up.

WR
USC transfers #5 Trevon Sidney (5' 11" 170lbs) and #9 Josh Imatorbhebhe (6' 2" 215lbs) are solid as is #4 Ricky Smalling (6’ 1” 205lbs) and they have good speed. Keep an eye on JUCO transfer #6 Dominic Stampley (5’ 10” 180lbs) and Valparaiso transfer #86 Donny Navarro (5' 11" 185lbs).

Tight End
#87 Daniel Barker
(6' 4" 250lbs) is solid and has 7 receptions and 136 yard through the first three games. #10 Justice Williams (6' 3" 225lbs) is a converted wide receiver and has good size and speed. The TE will frequently line up in the H and will block 75-80% of time; run routes, delayed routes and run-offs 20-25% and are targets about 5-10%.

O-Line
The O-line is struggling (similar to Northern Illinois) because they switched to a passing QB (Peters) from a Dual Threat QB (AJ Bush led the team in rushing attempts in 2018). They can create a horseshoe (the pocket) but can’t maintain it on a consistent basis. They will also use variations of a slide to move to strength leaving the weak side open. Their footwork and hands are hit-and-miss which puts them in compromising positions and they lose leverage. Left guard #53 Kendrick Green is dealing with an injury.

Defense
Illinois runs a base 4-3 and they like to spread load the box (line up 7 or 8 defenders along the LOS/LBs in the gaps). They often disguise packages with this look and it seems to be their D coordinator’s “go to”. Against the run, Illinois currently ranks #17 in the country in Rushing Defense. However, their three opponents (Akron, U Conn and Eastern Michigan) average 88.1 yards rushing in their 8 games. By comparison, Nebraska ranks #20 but their three opponents (South Alabama, Colorado and Northern Illinois) average 140.6 yards per game. Unlike NIU, Illinois’ assignment and space discipline is lacking. Note: The defense has a number of contributors dealing with injuries.

D-Line
Defensive end #47 Oluwole Betiku (6' 3" 250lbs transfer from USC) is quick and plays with good technique (most of the time). On the other side, defensive end #52 Ayo Shogbonyo (6' 2" 240lbs) is solid as well. There is a little bit of uncertainty with the injuries to the D-Line which isn’t good with their lack of depth. The status of #91 Jamal Woods and #95 Kenyon Jackson (both didn’t play v. EMU) are questionable while #55 Jamal Milan and #92 Isaiah Gay were banged up v. EMU but all of them are “expected to play” and #90 Lere Oladipo is still suspended. Note: When questioned about the injuries to his D-Line, Lovie Smith said, Be ready. Your number might be called. Soon."

LBs

Illinois’ starting linebackers are serviceable but undersized. #9 Dele Harding (6' 1" 230lbs) leads the team in tackles and #35 Jake Hansen (6' 1" 225lbs) is second in tackles and #5 Milo Eifler (6' 2" 225lbs) is sixth. However, they are very thin behind the starters with 2 sophomores and 2 freshmen getting playing time and they collectively have 4 tackles and 5 assists between them.

DBs
Similar to the D-Line, the secondary has a lot of uncertainty due to injuries which has caused Illinois to play a lot of guys in the secondary. #30 Sydney Brown, #6 Tony Adams and #7 Stanley Green are “expected to play” but are all dealing with injuries. #8 Nate Hobbs (6' 0" 190lbs) is the best CB and safety #42 Michael Marchese (6' 4" 210lbs) has good range in that he’s big enough to drop down to the line or play deep cover.

Special Teams and Kickers
#14 Blake Hayes (Australian transplant) averages 45 yards per punt and has shown the Aussie Rugby roll out and use the sidewinder kicking motion. #17 James McCourt has a strong leg (57 yard field goal v. Eastern Michigan).

What am I going to watch?

On offense:

When questioned about his defensive coverage, head coach Lovie Smith said, “We need to cover them better. How do you answer that question? It’s pretty hard. When you’re not getting pressure, you can send more guys. We did and we got burned. It comes down to a one on one game. We covered better in the past than we did this past week. We’ll do a lot better than we did. It was one game; we did not play our best. That’s not what we’ve seen from the total body of work. We need to win more one on one battles." Frost & Company should be smiling like kids in a candy store and should be effective running the ball but they can go cat-and-mouse with Illinois' defense; create mismatches and have these guys spun up before halftime.

1) Illinois’ assignment and key discipline isn’t in the same league as Northern Illinois. When they go with the spread load heavy look with their LBs up tight, Nebraska should eat them alive and attack them with play action with the DUCK, TE, slants and wheel routes.

2) In passing situations, Illinois likes to bring the OLB on a delay outside wrap blitz. Additionally, the LBs and DEs bite hard on play action and the safeties are slow to break zone which leaves a big gap. Overall their D crashes hard on play action so the RPO schemes should be very effective.

3) The Illinois D coordinator has a tendency to tip his hat when he stops loading the box. Run RPO; run zone; run misdirection; run counter, run, run, run, etc. Suck them down and then go with quick slants and over the top.

4) Illinois can be slow to the line after a play and will be out of position. Nebraska can go quick tempo; run counter, misdirection and play action, ISO the linebackers and create the coveted mismatches.

5) Basic zone blocking seems effective against Illinois’ D-line and the LBs get caught up watching and slow to react (basically a fan on the field). Getting to the second level on running plays should happen early and often.

6) Illinois’s secondary appears to be lost in concept with some of their coverage packages. After lulling the secondary to sleep with stretch running, bubbles, slants, and short to intermediate passing – Nebraska can attack these guys deep and break their will.

Spotlight players: I would like to see the O go faster and I want to see continued improvement with the O-line. The Jaimes injury is a concern but this should be a game that presents another opportunity to get some PT for 2nd team guys which would be huge with building depth.

Nebraska on Defense:
1)
Peters took a nasty blind-side sack by a DE on a basic weak side overload; one of 6 sacks by EMU. Their O-Line seems overwhelmed with basic 4 and 5 man fronts which leads me to believe Nebraska’s D-line can get home on these guys and bring heavy pressure without additional personnel packages.

2) Illinois’ version of the RPO should never work v. the Nebraska D (EVER). Nebraska can keep a LB home and key on QB, RB and TE to blow up most running plays and play action while protecting the underneath routes. They need to remember that their QB will only tuck and run when absolutely necessary as Illinois has very few designed QB running plays.

3) Illinois likes to stretch the field with combos, crossing and out routes. The DEs and OLBs need to watch back-side contain as well as outside contain on the weak side of the pocket in those situations.

4) A few things with the secondary. Last week the DBs were very fortunate with some overthrown balls but the fact remains, WRs got behind them early and there was some confusion. Also, the DBs haven’t been called for some obvious pass interference in the first three games. The DBs will be put in some one-on-one situations v. Illinois and will need to clean up their game.

5) Communication. Illinois has a package of bubble screens which look as though they have the potential to be a double pass; double bubble or throw back (trick plays) which I expect a desperate Illinois team to try. The secondary and linebackers need to communicate and hold their assignments.

6) The Illinois punt team protection lacks gap discipline and allows big holes. Based on what we saw last week, Nebraska can get to this guy. Another thought is to bring the pressure and let him shank it. Their gunners seem to get lazy with their lanes and don’t care for contact. JD Spielman could get a big return (or two) in this game.

Spotlight players:
The entire defense. We all knew when the Nebraska offense starts to ramp up, their quick scoring offense would ultimately tip the scale in time of possession and put the Nebraska defense under some duress. That’s OK. Continue to build on refining that inner-nastiness and blowing up guys and having fun.

My thoughts…
During the NIU game, I wondered how Austin Allen would look playing on defense. Last week I allowed myself to overthink Northern Illinois after the Colorado loss and totally lost sight of common sense and failed to remember what I wrote on May 30th:

I was really high on N. Illinois but then I watched UAB dominate them in the bowl game and I started to smile. Nebraska’s O "should" rip this team to shreds.
In that same May 30th post, I ranked Illinois below Northern Illinois and still believe that today. In addition to the injuries, Illinois has a lot of issues. Through three games they are undisciplined and are one of the most penalized teams in the country and are nearly dead-last in the country in penalty yards. (BTW… Nebraska has done a good job of cleaning up their penalty issues). Illinois looked uninspired v. EMU and UConn and there appears to be a lot of dysfunction on the field and on the sideline. Nebraska needs to prevent the early big plays and crush their spirit. The defense is growing and learning and developing. So is the offense and I believe Nebraska will take control of this game from the start and not let go. Illinois may score some points but it won’t be representative of the final score.

Final Score:

52 – Nebraska

24 – Illinois

Game 1
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
F
Nebraska
14
17
14
7
52
Illinois
7​
0​
7​
10​
24​

It figures that I found these links after I wrote the majority of my write-up. They are an honest assessment film study of Illinois with only plays.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tzq1Cab08i0 [Illinois offense v. U Conn]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5fBx5Mw_UE [Illinois defense v. U Conn]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuEf-jSDyvg [Illinois offense v. Eastern Michigan]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwFWxqpBOUA [Illinois defense v. Eastern Michigan]

**********
And as always, the information contained herein was written by me and was derived from sources I deem reliable. I perform the research, establish opinions and devise analysis of my own accord and any language that appears to be similar in form and/or content from another published source is purely coincidental. The majority of the team and player data, performance information and statistics are obtained from individual university websites, ncaa.com, Sports-Reference.com, ESPN.com and game film from YouTube.com and hudl.com.
 
Last edited:

All 'N' 011808

Former Walk-on
2 Year Member
“Nebraska needs to play a complete game from top to bottom; put their foot on NIU’s throat and don’t let up until the clock shows 00:00…”
Nebraska took a big step towards playing a full 60 minutes last Saturday. I really liked the goal-line stand with 1:30 remaining in the game. Defense in those situations is really satisfying to me.
Great write up as always, but this was my favorite part. There's nothing like keeping points off the board. Nothing. :throwbones:
 

Huskerthom

All Legend
5 Year Member
Great read. I had only watched their game against EMU. Other than a few big plays I came away unimpressed.
 

Powder Creek

Recruit
5 Year Member
QB
At QB, Michigan transfer #18 Brandon Peters (6' 5" 220lbs) throws a good ball when given time. He’s a bit flat footed and not looking to run but he will when forced and there’s a reason why Illinois goes with a lot of quick 2 and 3 step drops. Watching Peters reminds me so much of Tanner Lee (not in a good way). When he’s pressured, he isn’t fluid and loses pocket presence; misses or ignores check-downs; telegraphs throws; and has a hint of a noodle arm.
You gotta love "hint of a noodle arm" with a generous portion of Mama's Italian gravy. The D should be salivating.
:p
Thanks OHW for outstanding production.
 

CrabHusker

Alienating everyone, one post at a time.
5 Year Member
A few quotes from last week’s write up…

@HuskerWeatherman wrote, “Northern Illinois has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in their last 17 games.”
Great stat provided by HW. Nebraska knocked that trophy off their shelf.

“Nebraska needs to play a complete game from top to bottom; put their foot on NIU’s throat and don’t let up until the clock shows 00:00…”
Nebraska took a big step towards playing a full 60 minutes last Saturday. I really liked the goal-line stand with 1:30 remaining in the game. Defense in those situations is really satisfying to me.

“NIU really likes to use their TE and they have been targeted several times in the first two games.”
This is something Nebraska’s defense needs to continue to work on. Colorado and Northern Illinois had some good success with their TEs and WRs going underneath. Illinois likes to use their TEs and will try the same thing.

“Executing a true RPO means (one example) holding the ball in the RBs gut until the DE commits and then pulling it out and either run or throw.”
The Martinez TD run was perfect. Held the ball in the RBs gut and once the DE committed, he was able to cruise into the end zone. The RPO should be very effective this weekend.

On to the scouting report…
Head coach Lovie Smith is in his 4th year at Illinois. He’s played a lot of younger guys and has dealt with roster turnover so he jumped head first in the transfer portal and has at least 12 transfers on his team. Sitting at 2-1, their best win is Akron which is probably the worst D1 team in the country and very little can be gleaned from that win. Eastern Michigan (EMU) beat Illinois by going over the top and mixing up some underneath routes and running some misdirection, zone and counter. EMU should have beaten them by 20+ but they went away from some of their schemes which allowed Illinois to make the game close.

Offense
Nebraska will face yet another pro spread offense as Illinois lines up primarily in a single back and a TE in the slot/H with the QB in the gun. They use plenty of pre-snap motion and the H/TE (quite often) goes in motion and is generally utilized as an extra blocker on the edge but can release into a route. The RB can break from the backfield pre-snap to give Illinois an empty look. The offense seems simplistic and utilizes a lot of zone running and stretch plays. They will try to work out routes and get the TE down field.

QB
At QB, Michigan transfer #18 Brandon Peters (6' 5" 220lbs) throws a good ball when given time. He’s a bit flat footed and not looking to run but he will when forced and there’s a reason why Illinois goes with a lot of quick 2 and 3 step drops. Watching Peters reminds me so much of Tanner Lee (not in a good way). When he’s pressured, he isn’t fluid and loses pocket presence; misses or ignores check-downs; telegraphs throws; and has a hint of a noodle arm.

RB
#2 Reggie Corbin
(5' 10" 200lbs) is a shifty and speedy back and has good upper body strength. He missed the U Conn game (hip pointer) and was dinged up v. EMU but still ran for 144 yards. #25 Dre Brown (5' 11" 210lbs) is more of a north/south runner. The RBs will slip out of the backfield in screens and bubbles. Nebraska needs to get low and wrap these guys up.

WR
USC transfers #5 Trevon Sidney (5' 11" 170lbs) and #9 Josh Imatorbhebhe (6' 2" 215lbs) are solid as is #4 Ricky Smalling (6’ 1” 205lbs) and they have good speed. Keep an eye on JUCO transfer #6 Dominic Stampley (5’ 10” 180lbs) and Valparaiso transfer #86 Donny Navarro (5' 11" 185lbs).

Tight End
#87 Daniel Barker
(6' 4" 250lbs) is solid and has 7 receptions and 136 yard through the first three games. #10 Justice Williams (6' 3" 225lbs) is a converted wide receiver and has good size and speed. The TE will frequently line up in the H and will block 75-80% of time; run routes, delayed routes and run-offs 20-25% and are targets about 5-10%.

O-Line
The O-line is struggling (similar to Northern Illinois) because they switched to a passing QB (Peters) from a Dual Threat QB (AJ Bush led the team in rushing attempts in 2018). They can create a horseshoe (the pocket) but can’t maintain it on a consistent basis. They will also use variations of a slide to move to strength leaving the weak side open. Their footwork and hands are hit-and-miss which puts them in compromising positions and they lose leverage. Left guard #53 Kendrick Green is dealing with an injury.

Defense
Illinois runs a base 4-3 and they like to spread load the box (line up 7 or 8 defenders along the LOS/LBs in the gaps). They often disguise packages with this look and it seems to be their D coordinator’s “go to”. Against the run, Illinois currently ranks #17 in the country in Rushing Defense. However, their three opponents (Akron, U Conn and Eastern Michigan) average 88.1 yards rushing in their 8 games. By comparison, Nebraska ranks #20 but their three opponents (South Alabama, Colorado and Northern Illinois) average 140.6 yards per game. Unlike NIU, Illinois’ assignment and space discipline is lacking. Note: The defense has a number of contributors dealing with injuries.

D-Line
Defensive end #47 Oluwole Betiku (6' 3" 250lbs transfer from USC) is quick and plays with good technique (most of the time). On the other side, defensive end #52 Ayo Shogbonyo (6' 2" 240lbs) is solid as well. There is a little bit of uncertainty with the injuries to the D-Line which isn’t good with their lack of depth. The status of #91 Jamal Woods and #95 Kenyon Jackson (both didn’t play v. EMU) are questionable while #55 Jamal Milan and #92 Isaiah Gay were banged up v. EMU but all of them are “expected to play” and #90 Lere Oladipo is still suspended. Note: When questioned about the injuries to his D-Line, Lovie Smith said, Be ready. Your number might be called. Soon."

LBs

Illinois’ starting linebackers are serviceable but undersized. #9 Dele Harding (6' 1" 230lbs) leads the team in tackles and #35 Jake Hansen (6' 1" 225lbs) is second in tackles and #5 Milo Eifler (6' 2" 225lbs) is sixth. However, they are very thin behind the starters with 2 sophomores and 2 freshmen getting playing time and they collectively have 4 tackles and 5 assists between them.

DBs
Similar to the D-Line, the secondary has a lot of uncertainty due to injuries which has caused Illinois to play a lot of guys in the secondary. #30 Sydney Brown, #6 Tony Adams and #7 Stanley Green are “expected to play” but are all dealing with injuries. #8 Nate Hobbs (6' 0" 190lbs) is the best CB and safety #42 Michael Marchese (6' 4" 210lbs) has good range in that he’s big enough to drop down to the line or play deep cover.

Special Teams and Kickers
#14 Blake Hayes (Australian transplant) averages 45 yards per punt and has shown the Aussie Rugby roll out and use the sidewinder kicking motion. #17 James McCourt has a strong leg (57 yard field goal v. Eastern Michigan).

What am I going to watch?

On offense:

When questioned about his defensive coverage, head coach Lovie Smith said, “We need to cover them better. How do you answer that question? It’s pretty hard. When you’re not getting pressure, you can send more guys. We did and we got burned. It comes down to a one on one game. We covered better in the past than we did this past week. We’ll do a lot better than we did. It was one game; we did not play our best. That’s not what we’ve seen from the total body of work. We need to win more one on one battles." Frost & Company should be smiling like kids in a candy store and should be effective running the ball but they can go cat-and-mouse with Illinois' defense; create mismatches and have these guys spun up before halftime.

1) Illinois’ assignment and key discipline isn’t in the same league as Northern Illinois. When they go with the spread load heavy look with their LBs up tight, Nebraska should eat them alive and attack them with play action with the DUCK, TE, slants and wheel routes.

2) In passing situations, Illinois likes to bring the OLB on a delay outside wrap blitz. Additionally, the LBs and DEs bite hard on play action and the safeties are slow to break zone which leaves a big gap. Overall their D crashes hard on play action so the RPO schemes should be very effective.

3) The Illinois D coordinator has a tendency to tip his hat when he stops loading the box. Run RPO; run zone; run misdirection; run counter, run, run, run, etc. Suck them down and then go with quick slants and over the top.

4) Illinois can be slow to the line after a play and will be out of position. Nebraska can go quick tempo; run counter, misdirection and play action, ISO the linebackers and create the coveted mismatches.

5) Basic zone blocking seems effective against Illinois’ D-line and the LBs get caught up watching and slow to react (basically a fan on the field). Getting to the second level on running plays should happen early and often.

6) Illinois’s secondary appears to be lost in concept with some of their coverage packages. After lulling the secondary to sleep with stretch running, bubbles, slants, and short to intermediate passing – Nebraska can attack these guys deep and break their will.

Spotlight players: I would like to see the O go faster and I want to see continued improvement with the O-line. The Jaimes injury is a concern but this should be a game that presents another opportunity to get some PT for 2nd team guys which would be huge with building depth.

Nebraska on Defense:
1)
Peters took a nasty blind-side sack by a DE on a basic weak side overload; one of 6 sacks by EMU. Their O-Line seems overwhelmed with basic 4 and 5 man fronts which leads me to believe Nebraska’s D-line can get home on these guys and bring heavy pressure without additional personnel packages.

2) Illinois’ version of the RPO should never work v. the Nebraska D (EVER). Nebraska can keep a LB home and key on QB, RB and TE to blow up most running plays and play action while protecting the underneath routes. They need to remember that their QB will only tuck and run when absolutely necessary as Illinois has very few designed QB running plays.

3) Illinois likes to stretch the field with combos, crossing and out routes. The DEs and OLBs need to watch back-side contain as well as outside contain on the weak side of the pocket in those situations.

4) A few things with the secondary. Last week the DBs were very fortunate with some overthrown balls but the fact remains, WRs got behind them early and there was some confusion. Also, the DBs haven’t been called for some obvious pass interference in the first three games. The DBs will be put in some one-on-one situations v. Illinois and will need to clean up their game.

5) Communication. Illinois has a package of bubble screens which look as though they have the potential to be a double pass; double bubble or throw back (trick plays) which I expect a desperate Illinois team to try. The secondary and linebackers need to communicate and hold their assignments.

6) The Illinois punt team protection lacks gap discipline and allows big holes. Based on what we saw last week, Nebraska can get to this guy. Another thought is to bring the pressure and let him shank it. Their gunners seem to get lazy with their lanes and don’t care for contact. JD Spielman could get a big return (or two) in this game.

Spotlight players:
The entire defense. We all knew when the Nebraska offense starts to ramp up, their quick scoring offense would ultimately tip the scale in time of possession and put the Nebraska defense under some duress. That’s OK. Continue to build on refining that inner-nastiness and blowing up guys and having fun.

My thoughts…
During the NIU game, I wondered how Austin Allen would look playing on defense. Last week I allowed myself to overthink Northern Illinois after the Colorado loss and totally lost sight of common sense and failed to remember what I wrote on May 30th:



In that same May 30th post, I ranked Illinois below Northern Illinois and still believe that today. In addition to the injuries, Illinois has a lot of issues. Through three games they are undisciplined and are one of the most penalized teams in the country and are nearly dead-last in the country in penalty yards. (BTW… Nebraska has done a good job of cleaning up their penalty issues). Illinois looked uninspired v. EMU and UConn and there appears to be a lot of dysfunction on the field and on the sideline. Nebraska needs to prevent the early big plays and crush their spirit. The defense is growing and learning and developing. So is the offense and I believe Nebraska will take control of this game from the start and not let go. Illinois may score some points but it won’t be representative of the final score.

Final Score:

52 – Nebraska

24 – Illinois

Game 1
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
F
Nebraska
14
17
14
7
52
Illinois
7​
0​
7​
10​
24​

It figures that I found these links after I wrote the majority of my write-up. They are an honest assessment film study of Illinois with only plays.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tzq1Cab08i0 [Illinois offense v. U Conn]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5fBx5Mw_UE [Illinois defense v. U Conn]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuEf-jSDyvg [Illinois offense v. Eastern Michigan]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwFWxqpBOUA [Illinois defense v. Eastern Michigan]

**********
And as always, the information contained herein was written by me and was derived from sources I deem reliable. I perform the research, establish opinions and devise analysis of my own accord and any language that appears to be similar in form and/or content from another published source is purely coincidental. The majority of the team and player data, performance information and statistics are obtained from individual university websites, ncaa.com, Sports-Reference.com, ESPN.com and game film from YouTube.com and hudl.com.
Illinois has been puzzling to me since Smith’s arrival. They’ll look like they’re starting to figure things out then like they’ve never played football before in the same game if not the same quarter. I just never know what to expect.

Come to think of it, that’s not unlike watching Nebraska football for much of the last five years.
 

HuskerJ

Red Shirt
5 Year Member
Great write up! These types of games are interesting. We obviously have the better overall team. I'm not yet sold on AM under duress and I hope Lovie brings it so we can get AM more comfortable with quick reads/passes. Nothing like getting the ball in Wandale's hands on a dump after they rush 7. If AM is scrambling around against Illinois we know something is wrong.

I want to see us actually cater our offense to what the defense is doing. I want to see a game plan that is directly connected to what we think they have as strengths/weaknesses. This is one of those games where I think they air it out. Try and make us bring blitzes to throw them off, then really get after us. That's what I would do anyway. Lots of screens, quick slants and posts. We have to avoid pass interference and targeting. I'm thinking their first couple of series will have well rehearsed scripted plays that give them some confidence and hope. After that I expect them to think they have opened up the running game and get nothing. Then have to deal with unscripted play calls.

I think the first half is close. I think they do hit some big plays and get us on our heals. I think they run out of plays quickly and find themselves down 21-17. I think it's 38 - 20 to start the 4th quarter and 48 - 23 final score.

Oh, and protect the ball!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

Lurker44

Recruit
A few quotes from last week’s write up…

@HuskerWeatherman wrote, “Northern Illinois has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in their last 17 games.”
Great stat provided by HW. Nebraska knocked that trophy off their shelf.

“Nebraska needs to play a complete game from top to bottom; put their foot on NIU’s throat and don’t let up until the clock shows 00:00…”
Nebraska took a big step towards playing a full 60 minutes last Saturday. I really liked the goal-line stand with 1:30 remaining in the game. Defense in those situations is really satisfying to me.

“NIU really likes to use their TE and they have been targeted several times in the first two games.”
This is something Nebraska’s defense needs to continue to work on. Colorado and Northern Illinois had some good success with their TEs and WRs going underneath. Illinois likes to use their TEs and will try the same thing.

“Executing a true RPO means (one example) holding the ball in the RBs gut until the DE commits and then pulling it out and either run or throw.”
The Martinez TD run was perfect. Held the ball in the RBs gut and once the DE committed, he was able to cruise into the end zone. The RPO should be very effective this weekend.

On to the scouting report…
Head coach Lovie Smith is in his 4th year at Illinois. He’s played a lot of younger guys and has dealt with roster turnover so he jumped head first in the transfer portal and has at least 12 transfers on his team. Sitting at 2-1, their best win is Akron which is probably the worst D1 team in the country and very little can be gleaned from that win. Eastern Michigan (EMU) beat Illinois by going over the top and mixing up some underneath routes and running some misdirection, zone and counter. EMU should have beaten them by 20+ but they went away from some of their schemes which allowed Illinois to make the game close.

Offense
Nebraska will face yet another pro spread offense as Illinois lines up primarily in a single back and a TE in the slot/H with the QB in the gun. They use plenty of pre-snap motion and the H/TE (quite often) goes in motion and is generally utilized as an extra blocker on the edge but can release into a route. The RB can break from the backfield pre-snap to give Illinois an empty look. The offense seems simplistic and utilizes a lot of zone running and stretch plays. They will try to work out routes and get the TE down field.

QB
At QB, Michigan transfer #18 Brandon Peters (6' 5" 220lbs) throws a good ball when given time. He’s a bit flat footed and not looking to run but he will when forced and there’s a reason why Illinois goes with a lot of quick 2 and 3 step drops. Watching Peters reminds me so much of Tanner Lee (not in a good way). When he’s pressured, he isn’t fluid and loses pocket presence; misses or ignores check-downs; telegraphs throws; and has a hint of a noodle arm.

RB
#2 Reggie Corbin
(5' 10" 200lbs) is a shifty and speedy back and has good upper body strength. He missed the U Conn game (hip pointer) and was dinged up v. EMU but still ran for 144 yards. #25 Dre Brown (5' 11" 210lbs) is more of a north/south runner. The RBs will slip out of the backfield in screens and bubbles. Nebraska needs to get low and wrap these guys up.

WR
USC transfers #5 Trevon Sidney (5' 11" 170lbs) and #9 Josh Imatorbhebhe (6' 2" 215lbs) are solid as is #4 Ricky Smalling (6’ 1” 205lbs) and they have good speed. Keep an eye on JUCO transfer #6 Dominic Stampley (5’ 10” 180lbs) and Valparaiso transfer #86 Donny Navarro (5' 11" 185lbs).

Tight End
#87 Daniel Barker
(6' 4" 250lbs) is solid and has 7 receptions and 136 yard through the first three games. #10 Justice Williams (6' 3" 225lbs) is a converted wide receiver and has good size and speed. The TE will frequently line up in the H and will block 75-80% of time; run routes, delayed routes and run-offs 20-25% and are targets about 5-10%.

O-Line
The O-line is struggling (similar to Northern Illinois) because they switched to a passing QB (Peters) from a Dual Threat QB (AJ Bush led the team in rushing attempts in 2018). They can create a horseshoe (the pocket) but can’t maintain it on a consistent basis. They will also use variations of a slide to move to strength leaving the weak side open. Their footwork and hands are hit-and-miss which puts them in compromising positions and they lose leverage. Left guard #53 Kendrick Green is dealing with an injury.

Defense
Illinois runs a base 4-3 and they like to spread load the box (line up 7 or 8 defenders along the LOS/LBs in the gaps). They often disguise packages with this look and it seems to be their D coordinator’s “go to”. Against the run, Illinois currently ranks #17 in the country in Rushing Defense. However, their three opponents (Akron, U Conn and Eastern Michigan) average 88.1 yards rushing in their 8 games. By comparison, Nebraska ranks #20 but their three opponents (South Alabama, Colorado and Northern Illinois) average 140.6 yards per game. Unlike NIU, Illinois’ assignment and space discipline is lacking. Note: The defense has a number of contributors dealing with injuries.

D-Line
Defensive end #47 Oluwole Betiku (6' 3" 250lbs transfer from USC) is quick and plays with good technique (most of the time). On the other side, defensive end #52 Ayo Shogbonyo (6' 2" 240lbs) is solid as well. There is a little bit of uncertainty with the injuries to the D-Line which isn’t good with their lack of depth. The status of #91 Jamal Woods and #95 Kenyon Jackson (both didn’t play v. EMU) are questionable while #55 Jamal Milan and #92 Isaiah Gay were banged up v. EMU but all of them are “expected to play” and #90 Lere Oladipo is still suspended. Note: When questioned about the injuries to his D-Line, Lovie Smith said, Be ready. Your number might be called. Soon."

LBs

Illinois’ starting linebackers are serviceable but undersized. #9 Dele Harding (6' 1" 230lbs) leads the team in tackles and #35 Jake Hansen (6' 1" 225lbs) is second in tackles and #5 Milo Eifler (6' 2" 225lbs) is sixth. However, they are very thin behind the starters with 2 sophomores and 2 freshmen getting playing time and they collectively have 4 tackles and 5 assists between them.

DBs
Similar to the D-Line, the secondary has a lot of uncertainty due to injuries which has caused Illinois to play a lot of guys in the secondary. #30 Sydney Brown, #6 Tony Adams and #7 Stanley Green are “expected to play” but are all dealing with injuries. #8 Nate Hobbs (6' 0" 190lbs) is the best CB and safety #42 Michael Marchese (6' 4" 210lbs) has good range in that he’s big enough to drop down to the line or play deep cover.

Special Teams and Kickers
#14 Blake Hayes (Australian transplant) averages 45 yards per punt and has shown the Aussie Rugby roll out and use the sidewinder kicking motion. #17 James McCourt has a strong leg (57 yard field goal v. Eastern Michigan).

What am I going to watch?

On offense:

When questioned about his defensive coverage, head coach Lovie Smith said, “We need to cover them better. How do you answer that question? It’s pretty hard. When you’re not getting pressure, you can send more guys. We did and we got burned. It comes down to a one on one game. We covered better in the past than we did this past week. We’ll do a lot better than we did. It was one game; we did not play our best. That’s not what we’ve seen from the total body of work. We need to win more one on one battles." Frost & Company should be smiling like kids in a candy store and should be effective running the ball but they can go cat-and-mouse with Illinois' defense; create mismatches and have these guys spun up before halftime.

1) Illinois’ assignment and key discipline isn’t in the same league as Northern Illinois. When they go with the spread load heavy look with their LBs up tight, Nebraska should eat them alive and attack them with play action with the DUCK, TE, slants and wheel routes.

2) In passing situations, Illinois likes to bring the OLB on a delay outside wrap blitz. Additionally, the LBs and DEs bite hard on play action and the safeties are slow to break zone which leaves a big gap. Overall their D crashes hard on play action so the RPO schemes should be very effective.

3) The Illinois D coordinator has a tendency to tip his hat when he stops loading the box. Run RPO; run zone; run misdirection; run counter, run, run, run, etc. Suck them down and then go with quick slants and over the top.

4) Illinois can be slow to the line after a play and will be out of position. Nebraska can go quick tempo; run counter, misdirection and play action, ISO the linebackers and create the coveted mismatches.

5) Basic zone blocking seems effective against Illinois’ D-line and the LBs get caught up watching and slow to react (basically a fan on the field). Getting to the second level on running plays should happen early and often.

6) Illinois’s secondary appears to be lost in concept with some of their coverage packages. After lulling the secondary to sleep with stretch running, bubbles, slants, and short to intermediate passing – Nebraska can attack these guys deep and break their will.

Spotlight players: I would like to see the O go faster and I want to see continued improvement with the O-line. The Jaimes injury is a concern but this should be a game that presents another opportunity to get some PT for 2nd team guys which would be huge with building depth.

Nebraska on Defense:
1)
Peters took a nasty blind-side sack by a DE on a basic weak side overload; one of 6 sacks by EMU. Their O-Line seems overwhelmed with basic 4 and 5 man fronts which leads me to believe Nebraska’s D-line can get home on these guys and bring heavy pressure without additional personnel packages.

2) Illinois’ version of the RPO should never work v. the Nebraska D (EVER). Nebraska can keep a LB home and key on QB, RB and TE to blow up most running plays and play action while protecting the underneath routes. They need to remember that their QB will only tuck and run when absolutely necessary as Illinois has very few designed QB running plays.

3) Illinois likes to stretch the field with combos, crossing and out routes. The DEs and OLBs need to watch back-side contain as well as outside contain on the weak side of the pocket in those situations.

4) A few things with the secondary. Last week the DBs were very fortunate with some overthrown balls but the fact remains, WRs got behind them early and there was some confusion. Also, the DBs haven’t been called for some obvious pass interference in the first three games. The DBs will be put in some one-on-one situations v. Illinois and will need to clean up their game.

5) Communication. Illinois has a package of bubble screens which look as though they have the potential to be a double pass; double bubble or throw back (trick plays) which I expect a desperate Illinois team to try. The secondary and linebackers need to communicate and hold their assignments.

6) The Illinois punt team protection lacks gap discipline and allows big holes. Based on what we saw last week, Nebraska can get to this guy. Another thought is to bring the pressure and let him shank it. Their gunners seem to get lazy with their lanes and don’t care for contact. JD Spielman could get a big return (or two) in this game.

Spotlight players:
The entire defense. We all knew when the Nebraska offense starts to ramp up, their quick scoring offense would ultimately tip the scale in time of possession and put the Nebraska defense under some duress. That’s OK. Continue to build on refining that inner-nastiness and blowing up guys and having fun.

My thoughts…
During the NIU game, I wondered how Austin Allen would look playing on defense. Last week I allowed myself to overthink Northern Illinois after the Colorado loss and totally lost sight of common sense and failed to remember what I wrote on May 30th:



In that same May 30th post, I ranked Illinois below Northern Illinois and still believe that today. In addition to the injuries, Illinois has a lot of issues. Through three games they are undisciplined and are one of the most penalized teams in the country and are nearly dead-last in the country in penalty yards. (BTW… Nebraska has done a good job of cleaning up their penalty issues). Illinois looked uninspired v. EMU and UConn and there appears to be a lot of dysfunction on the field and on the sideline. Nebraska needs to prevent the early big plays and crush their spirit. The defense is growing and learning and developing. So is the offense and I believe Nebraska will take control of this game from the start and not let go. Illinois may score some points but it won’t be representative of the final score.

Final Score:

52 – Nebraska

24 – Illinois

Game 1
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
F
Nebraska
14
17
14
7
52
Illinois
7​
0​
7​
10​
24​

It figures that I found these links after I wrote the majority of my write-up. They are an honest assessment film study of Illinois with only plays.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tzq1Cab08i0 [Illinois offense v. U Conn]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5fBx5Mw_UE [Illinois defense v. U Conn]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuEf-jSDyvg [Illinois offense v. Eastern Michigan]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwFWxqpBOUA [Illinois defense v. Eastern Michigan]

**********
And as always, the information contained herein was written by me and was derived from sources I deem reliable. I perform the research, establish opinions and devise analysis of my own accord and any language that appears to be similar in form and/or content from another published source is purely coincidental. The majority of the team and player data, performance information and statistics are obtained from individual university websites, ncaa.com, Sports-Reference.com, ESPN.com and game film from YouTube.com and hudl.com.
My favorite one to date! Thanks OHW!
 

NUinID

Scout Team
2 Year Member
I don’t think Illinois scores that much. I think they get 17 at the most.

They do have some nice skill players but are fairly weak on the o line.
 
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