5 Nebraska players to watch against Iowa, including former Texas QB Casey Thompson

Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson arrives at Memorial Stadium before the first half of a game against Wisconsin on Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Lincoln, Nebraska (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

Friday’s game between Iowa and Nebraska features two teams that have relied on very different methods to create their rosters.

Iowa has continued to rely heavily on high school recruitment and trust in its development process. Nebraska, on the other hand, turned to the transfer portal’s talent pool for a quick makeover.

Here are five Nebraska players to watch as teams from neighboring states meet with contrasting strategies:

QB Casey Thompson

Casey Thompson has taken the starting role in his freshman year in Nebraska after four years in Texas.

The transfer quarterback has completed 62.7 percent of his passes, throwing 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Thompson missed time earlier in the season with an arm injury but made his comeback for the first time in Nebraska’s 15-14 loss to Wisconsin last weekend. He was 12-for-20 with two touchdowns.

He hooked early in the season and threw multiple interceptions in three straight games in October.

Thompson was a four-star recruit in the 2018 class and had offers from a few college football bluebloods including Ohio State and Oregon before settling on Texas.

He played a total of seven games in his first three years on the Texas campus, but earned the starting job early in the 2021 season. He finished the year with 24 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 63.2 completion percentage.

Thompson’s departure from Austin came after Texas lured former five-star recruit Quinn Ewers to the Longhorns via the transfer portal.

Michigan wide receiver Ronnie Bell (8) tries to get a catch as Nebraska defenseman Malcolm Hartzog (13) shoots in the first half of a game in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Saturday, November 12, 2022. defended. (AP Photo/Paul Sanja)

DB Malcolm Hartzog

A true freshman, Malcolm Hartzog made a quick impression on Nebraska’s secondary school.

He became Nebraska’s first true freshman to start at cornerback since 2016 after receiving the starting nod against Indiana on Oct. 1. A week later, he snagged his first career interception.

Hartzog’s three interceptions this season is as many as Nebraska’s two next-best defensemen combined.

Opposing quarterbacks made just 46.4 percent of passes when throwing at the receiver that Hartzog is covering, according to Pro Football Focus.

Nebraska wide receiver Trey Palmer (3) catches a pass against Wisconsin cornerback Alexander Smith (11) in the first half in Lincoln, Nebraska on Saturday, November 19, 2022 (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

WR Trey Palmer

Trey Palmer transferred to Nebraska from LSU and is delivering career-best numbers in 2022.

The Kentwood, La. native has 62 receptions for 878 yards and seven touchdowns — more than his first three years at Baton Rouge combined.

Palmer showed what he’s capable of earlier this season in Nebraska’s 43-37 loss to Purdue. The 6-foot-1 wideout had seven catches for 237 yards and two touchdowns on 13 goals.

However, since the trip to Purdue on Oct. 15, he has not received more than 50 yards in a game.

Nebraska’s Garrett Nelson (44) sacks North Dakota quarterback Tommy Schuster in the second half Saturday, September 3, 2022 in Lincoln, Neb. Schuster fumbled the ball in play and Nebraska defenseman Stephon Wynn Jr. recovered it. (AP Photo/Rebecca S Gratz)

Rand Garrett Nelson

In a team with a lot of turnover through the transfer portal, Garrett Nelson has been a constant in the Nebraska defense.

The last time Nebraska played a game without Nelson being there, Nate Stanley was Iowa’s quarterback, Post Malone’s “Circles” was the #1 song on Billboard, and the person writing this article was still in college.

Nelson has started the last 31 games for the Huskers.

The Scottsbluff, Neb. native was quite effective in those 31 games. He leads the Huskers with nine tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2022. He continued to lead the team in these categories in 2021.

But just like the rest of the Huskers, Nelson has yet to defeat the Hawkeyes.

“They are Iowa,” Nelson said of this week’s game. “We obviously have a chip on our shoulder with these guys.”

Nebraska edge rusher Ochaun Mathis (32) waves to fans as he leaves the field after his team’s 35-21 win over Indiana on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 in Lincoln, Nebraska (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

Edge Ochaun Mathis

Ochaun Mathis was among the high-profile signings Nebraska had via the transfer portal during the offseason.

On3 ranked the former TCU defenseman as Nebraska’s top transfer portal signing of the 2022 offseason.

Mathis was named second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2020 and 2021.

He started 34 straight games for the Horned Frogs before moving on. The only games he didn’t start at TCU were during his redshirt season.

Now a husker, Mathis has five tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 2022. Both numbers are among the top three in the team.

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