Maryland travels to Nebraska Nov. 19, and to gain more insight into the Huskers, we spoke to BigRedReport.com publisher Josh Harvey. Our question-and-answer session with him is below:
Terrapin Times: This is the first time Maryland and Nebraska have met since the Terps joined the Big Ten. Is there any curiosity surrounding this game in Lincoln, Neb., or are Huskers’ fans more concerned with what lies ahead and a showdown with Iowa?
Josh Harvey: There is definitely curiosity. Nebraska fans realize at this point, no matter the opponent, the Huskers can’t just show up and expect to win. Are they curious because it’s Maryland – not really. It’s the next team on the schedule and the next game where they have to worry if quarterback Tommy Armstrong is going to play. If he doesn’t – I think Nebraska fans will then start to dive more into what Maryland brings to the table.
TT: QB Tommy Armstrong has been a warrior for Nebraska this year. How important is he to Nebraska’s success, and any word on his status heading into this weeks game?
JH: On Monday head coach Mike Riley said he’s really day-to-day. Last week it was the concussion. This week it is because of the hamstring, although his ankle is bothering him as well. He’s got a severe limp as of Monday, but I expect him on the field. It’s senior day. Armstrong is a four-year starter. He’s not going out on the sidelines. Now will he play the whole game is anybody’s guess, but he will play is my prediction.
As far as how important is he to Nebraska’s success – very. Without Armstrong, I’m not sure Nebraska could score 20 points on any team in the Big Ten.
TT: Nebraska bounced back last week after two road losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin. Is this team back on track? What are the Huskers’ strengths and main concerns heading into the home stretch of the regular season?
JH: I was impressed with Nebraska’s win over Minnesota after dropping the prior two games. The Gophers are a hit you in the mouth and come right at you type of squad. The fact Nebraska punched back showed me they were on the right track.
OSU was an outlier. The Buckeyes have superior talent, but I don’t believe they are 59 points better than Nebraska. I would say at this point, despite giving up 62 to OSU, the strength of the team is the way the defense is playing. They are the first team all year to hold Minnesota’s rushing attack to under 100 yards.
TT: Nebraska used to be a presence in the DMV when John Papuchis, who has ties to the area, was on staff. (He obviously got Jason Ankrah and Marcus Newby to come to Lincoln). But I haven’t heard too much Huskers’ buzz in Maryland or D.C. since Papuchis left for North Carolina. Do you feel the Huskers will continue to, or attempt to, get back in the DMV, or will they focus on recruits closer to home?
JH: I think Nebraska might spot recruit the DMV going forward, but I don’t expect it to be an area where they put a lot of resources. For instance, they pulled four-star linebacker Avery Roberts out of Delaware this year.This staff has ties out west because of previous stops. They are having success out west recruiting. If Nebraska can own the 250-mile radius around Lincoln, have a presence in Florida, and be the San Diego of the East, they will be just fine recruiting.
TT: With Nebraska having a shot to win the Big Ten West if they win out, what’s the mindset heading into the Maryland game? Any vibe from the team or staff and what they think of the Terps, who have struggled in Big Ten play?
JH: The staff knows Maryland is a team that likes to establish the run out of the spread and anytime you play a team that features a 3-4 defense, you have to be ready. The mindset for Nebraska is business as usual. They realize the Terrapins have struggled in Big Ten play, but have also played within a score of Indiana (so did Nebraska), beat Purdue by more than they did, and are looking to get bowl eligible.
TT: How is Brian Stewart doing out there as a coach and recruiter, and how is he viewed by the fans? He was at Maryland for a good minute.
JH: Last year the secondary really took a while to find the right combination, but once they did they were much improved over the second half of the season. Throw out the Ohio State game and it has continued with Gerry, Williams, Chris Jones, Joshua Kalu and Aaron Williams. In the offseason Riley and defensive coordinator Mark Banker decided the secondary needed some extra attention. Defensive backs coach Brian Stewart was assigned to just the corners, while Banker took charge of the safeties. I really think the secondary as a whole benefited from the extra attention.
On the recruiting front, Stewart has done a solid job landing two four-star prospects (Marquel Dismuke and Lamar Jackson) in the 2016 class and a three-star player (JoJo Domman) who has been a standout on special teams. While we are still waiting for a few DBs to jump in this class, Stewart has put Nebraska in a good place to finish with a highly ranked DB or two closer to National Signing Day. These are a few of the DBs he secured official visits from or are guys who are planning to visit.