As was the case the last home game -- yes, it’s really been four weeks -- Nebraska is expecting a significant bunch of recruits for Saturday night’s clash with Michigan.
“We’re going to spend as much time with these guys as we can … and get these guys with our players as much as we possibly can,” said recruiting coordinator Ross Els.
Highlighting the list of expected visitors are Demorea Stringfellow, a wide receiver from Moreno Valley, Calif., who is committed to Washington, and defensive back Priest Willis (Tempe, Ariz.).
Both players are rated as four-star recruits, according to Rivals.com. Stringfellow attends the same high school that current Huskers Quincy Enunwa and Eric Martin did.
Offensive lineman Aaron Cochran (Atwater, Calif), defensive end Randy Gregory (an Arizona Western Community College player who has committed to Purdue), and Taylor Martinez’s brother, Drake Martinez, are also expected to be in town.
According to Rivals and Fox Sports Next, there will also be a healthy showing of recruits already committed to Nebraska: Quarterback Johnny Stanton, defensive end A.J. Natter, offensive lineman Zach Hannon, wide receiver Kevin Gladney and defensive back Jonathan Cook.
The Huskers have 14 commitments in the 2013 class, but are looking for their first known pledge since Cook's commitment Aug. 9. Els, though, has felt good about the talent coming through Lincoln for the Wisconsin and Michigan games.
“It’s pretty good (talent) at both,” he said. “We’ll take any of these guys that have come in on officials (visits).”
Granted, the recruits who were here for the Wisconsin game might have had it better in one respect. The temperatures weren’t in the 30s, as they might be Saturday night.
“Can you do anything about the weather?” Els joked.
* The third-down challenge: The Huskers learned how difficult it could be against Michigan's defense on third down last year, going just 3-of-13 in the 45-17 loss.
"The longer you go into the down sequence, the crazier it's going to get," said offensive line coach Barney Cotton. "They've got a very complicated third-down package. ... So third-and-four-to-six, and third-and-seven-to-10, you have to win. That's where we lost badly last fall. So that's definitely an area of concern of ours."
On those third downs, Cotton said you see the creativity of Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who formerly was the defensive coordinator with the NFL Baltimore Ravens.
"They have four-man pressure, they have three-down linemen pressure. They bring in different bodies and they put them in unique places. They have linebackers playing D-line, they have D-line that drop out -- not flat players -- they may play in the middle of the field. So it's very creative. You can tell the NFL background obviously in the third-down package."
Nebraska ranks 35th nationally in third-down conversions. Michigan's defense ranks 41st in getting off the field on those downs.
Most impressive, the Wolverines are 10th nationally in total defense (286.0 yards a game) and 16th in scoring defense (16.4 points).
* Corner rotation uncertain: Husker cornerback Josh Mitchell, a six-game starter who sat out last week's game because of an ankle injury, “feels good and looks good,” NU secondary coach Terry Joseph said Wednesday.
However, the coaches haven’t decided on the rotation at cornerback for the Michigan game.
“I’ll sit down (Thursday night) or Friday morning with Bo (Pelini) and J.P. (John Papuchis), and we’ll talk about it,” Joseph said.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Andrew Green started at the corner spots last week and played well, Joseph said, as did Mohammed Seisay.
“In a game like this, a spread game, there’ll probably be a lot of snaps, so we have to have four or five guys ready to go,” Joseph said.
* Beware jump balls: A former quarterback is now making his mark for Michigan as a receiver.
Devin Gardner, a 6-foot-4, 203-pound junior, causes matchup problems because of his height.
He wins plenty of jump balls, Joseph said.
“When you’re trying to stop the running game, you’re going to be in some one-on-one situations,” Joseph said. “That guy’s size and athletic ability gives him a huge advantage.”
Gardner has averaged 16.7 yards on 15 receptions.
* Keeping a level head: The goal all along for this Husker team has been to win a Big Ten championship.
It’s hardly lost on anyone, of course, that Nebraska needs to win Saturday to make that happen.
Still, offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles said you have to approach the Michigan game the same as all the others.
“We knew last week we had to go 1-0 to keep our hopes alive and it’s kind of the same this week,” Sirles said. “We have to go 1-0 to keep chasing that title dream. We all know this is a big game and we’re not going to try to make it out to be anything more than it is or less than it is. But it is a big game as far as where we want to end this season.”
-- Brian Christopherson and Steven M. Sipple