LINCOLN — Look for Josh Mitchell and Stanley Jean-Baptiste to be with the first-team defense again Saturday after the two cornerbacks started together for the first time at Ohio State.
Mitchell has started every game this season, and the sophomore has made 24 tackles and broken up three passes. Jean-Baptiste, a junior, replaced Andrew Green in the lineup against the Buckeyes.
“Those two will probably start the game,” NU secondary coach Terry Joseph said Wednesday. “Then Mo (Mohammed Seisay) and Andrew have to be ready, and then we have to have about three safeties ready to go. It's good to get Courtney (Osborne) back.”
The Nebraska secondary, much like the Husker defense overall, struggled with its consistency over the first half of the season. Joseph said that's something Nebraska will strive to fix at Northwestern.
“Obviously we want to play clean,” he said. “That's the big thing, that we can play 60, 70 plays of clean football, and I don't think defensively that we have done that. Throughout the first half of the season we played well in spurts, but obviously we had some times where we didn't play as well.”
Joseph wants more from Charles Jackson
Joseph said the bye week gave talented freshman Charles Jackson a chance to take a deep breath and go back to the fundamentals of the defensive playbook.
But now Joseph is ready to demand more from the backup cornerback.
“Like I told Charles on Monday, ‘It's time to start getting it,' because it's been six games and now expectations are a little bit higher,” Joseph said. “We're going to get into some games here where we're going to need some extra DBs to go in and play well.”
Jackson also backs up Ciante Evans at the nickel position, but Joseph said it is hard to take Evans off the field.
Wildcat fans energetic, Kaczenski says
Ryan Field might not be as big or seem as intimidating as some other places Nebraska has visited for the first time in the Big Ten, but assistant coach Rick Kaczenski said Northwestern always has a “great crowd and a lot of energy” for its home games at the 47,130-seat stadium.
Kaczenski made the trip to Evanston several times as an Iowa assistant coach.
“It's a great campus, a beautiful campus,” he said. “It's a great old stadium. A lot of tradition and a lot of history.
“There's not an easy place to play in the Big Ten, and there's not a bad stadium in the Big Ten.”
Kaczenski has warned his defensive linemen about one thing before they ever get to Ryan Field: “We're probably going to hit some traffic.”
Coaches expect ‘good stuff' from Rex
I-back Rex Burkhead remains on pace to play Saturday, although NU assistant coach Ron Brown would not speculate on how much.
Against Ohio State, Burkhead aggravated the left knee injury that he initially suffered Sept. 1. After resting through the bye week, the senior returned to practice Monday.
Burkhead has rushed for 392 yards this season (9.1 per carry) and ranks No. 6 on the Huskers' all-time chart (3,046) heading into the Northwestern game. But he has missed two games and parts of two others.
“We are expecting some good stuff from him,” Brown said.
— Rich Kaipust