Each Friday during the season, we'll be taking a look at a Big Ten player to watch when the games kick off Saturday.
This week's selection: Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
Saturday assignment: at Northwestern, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2
Nebraska might have its issues right now, but the receiver position isn’t one of them, and Bell is the biggest reason why. After leading the Huskers with 32 receptions for 461 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2011, Bell has taken the next step in his development this fall. He's one of the Big Ten's top big-play threats at receiver, averaging 23.1 yards on 20 receptions with four touchdowns. Eight of Bell’s catches have gone for 20 yards or longer. Nebraska's passing game is designed to stretch the field, and quarterback Taylor Martinez typically looks for Bell first when he's in the pocket.
Although Bell's reception total is low, he ranks third in the Big Ten and 46th nationally in receiving yards per game (77.2 ypg). He hasn't returned many kickoffs because of Ameer Abdullah's ability there, but he averages 29.7 yards on six attempts.
Bell will be a handful for a Northwestern secondary that has improved this season but remains prone to breakdowns against elite receivers. Last year, Bell had five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown against the Wildcats. He'll likely be marked by cornerback Nick VanHoose, who last week earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors after recording three pass breakups in the end zone against Minnesota. It should be a good matchup of two talented young skill players. Unlike many of his Huskers' teammates, Bell has been at his best on the road this season, recording 100-yard receiving performances against both UCLA and Ohio State. Nebraska needs another big game from Bell at Northwestern on Saturday.