When Ohio State prepared to face a mobile quarterback in previous seasons, it had an obvious candidate to serve as a scout-team quarterback in practices.
That was Tate Martell.
“He definitely helped a lot,” safety Jordan Fuller said.
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During matchups with Penn State, Martell often assumed the role of Trace McSorley. But Martell transferred to the University of Miami after last season, leaving the Buckeyes without a similar speedy backup to run the scout team.
Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez presents a similar test, a capable runner as well as a thrower. But Ohio State’s defense had one benefit in practices in the lead-up to a game Saturday at the Cornhuskers. They faced Justin Fields.
“They’re pretty similar just in the playbook you have to have with that kind of quarterback,” Fuller said. “It’s beneficial going against Justin.”
Fields did not run the scout team, which is designed to replicate the opposing team’s schemes, but his skill set offered a preview of what they might expect from Martinez.
As defenders have faced Fields in practice since spring practice, coach Ryan Day thought it was a benefit and didn’t “change a whole bunch” in their practice script.
Walk-on quarterbacks Jagger Laroe and Danny Vanatsky continued to run the scout team.
Offensive linemen lose champion status
One of Ohio State’s traditions is announcing its champions from the previous game on Mondays.
The grade is given for the best players or standouts. For the first three games this season, all of the starting offensive linemen graded as champions. That changed after the Miami University game — none of them was.
Part of the reason was decreased playing time, as the team rotated backups for the second half, but Day also hopes for an improved performance at Nebraska after some issues
“Just finishing their blocks,” Day said. “Protection. A lot of things. We were hard on them. We graded them hard.”
Day said the offensive linemen need to grade above 80 percent to be champions, the criteria used by offensive line coach Greg Studrawa.
Coaches share common path as assistant coaches
Nebraska coach Scott Frost and Day share one coaching mentor: Both were assistants under Chip Kelly.
Frost was a receivers coach at Oregon, where Kelly led the Ducks from 2009 until ’12, then became offensive coordinator when Mark Helfrich was promoted to coach upon Kelly’s departure to the NFL.
Day was the quarterbacks coach for Kelly for two seasons, including with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 and San Francisco 49ers in 2016, and also played for him as a quarterback at New Hampshire.
Frost and Day were never together on the same coaching staff, though, and it wasn’t until a golf tournament in Maine a few years ago that they met.
“He’s done a good job everywhere he’s gone,” Frost said of Day. “He’s climbed the coaching ranks and landed in a pretty good spot.”
Nebraska seeing Red, and that's traditional
Frost told reporters in Lincoln on Thursday that the Cornhuskers would not wear their black alternate uniforms against Ohio State.
Nebraska had worn its traditional red home uniforms in previous matchups with the Buckeyes but had donned black for previous high-profile matchups.
OSU contingent makes reservations for Lincoln
Buckeyes players, coaches and other staff members will stay at a hotel in Lincoln on Friday night before the game, as they did in 2017.
When they traveled to Nebraska in its first season in the Big Ten in 2011, the team stayed in Omaha, about 45 miles east of Lincoln.