LINCOLN — Nebraska will get two of its top three safeties back in limited roles Saturday against Northwestern while a couple of other playmakers are not expected to suit up, coach Mike Riley said Thursday evening following practice inside Memorial Stadium.
Aaron Williams (neck) practiced for the first time Thursday, Riley said, and will be available “not necessarily full time” against the Wildcats. Fellow safety Antonio Reed (knee) has practiced some this week and will be a factor, “not necessarily starting, but some role.” Both aggravated existing injuries last weekend at Purdue.
Outside linebacker Luke Gifford (hip) will miss a second straight game, Riley said. That leaves more snaps for senior Marcus Newby and maybe Collin Miller, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound redshirt freshman from Fishers, Indiana. “I’ve got real high expectations for him,” Riley said. “I’m glad that he’s playing more.”
Freshman running back Jaylin Bradley hasn’t practiced all week with a sprained ankle that failed to respond well to treatment. Bradley ran seven times for 42 yards and caught three balls for 31 yards as the lone bright spot in NU’s run game at Purdue.
“The lack of practicing during the week is hard,” Riley said, “but perhaps he could be an emergency guy.”
Riley also said he thinks tackle David Knevel (ankle) will be available, though the Huskers appear set to continue with true freshman Brenden Jaimes starting at right tackle. Meanwhile, cornerback Eric Lee still hasn’t completed concussion protocol and won’t play Saturday.
“I think that’s the news from Lake Wobegon,” Riley said.
» Riley said the team has been consistent all week and all season in its work ethic and that Saturday’s 25-24 comeback win at Purdue hasn’t had a noticeable effect on practice.
» Against up-tempo offenses like Northwestern’s, Riley said his defenders have been “good communicators” when it comes to being set.
» Riley said it didn’t sink in for him until later this week that Nebraska had five freshmen on offense in the second half of the Purdue game. That included true freshmen in Jaimes, Bradley and wideout Tyjon Lindsey as well as redshirt freshmen in right guard Matt Farniok and wideout JD Spielman. “I’ve hardly ever heard of that before,” Riley said.
» The offensive line’s latest change from last week includes new starters Cole Conrad (center) and Farniok after Michael Decker (knee) and Tanner Farmer (ankle) went down with longer-term injuries against Purdue. Riley said the new group will need to jell quickly.
“I think it’s really a good point and really important that that chemistry now develops with that group,” Riley said. “It’s real important that they work together, communicate and can basically then perform.”
» Nebraska has started three running backs this season, and all have endured an injury at some point this fall. That doesn’t include Bradley, who sparked the Husker ground game last Saturday. Riley said the revolving door has been a less-than-ideal circumstance.
Tre Bryant (knee) is out for the season while Mikale Wilbon (ankle) and Devine Ozigbo have also dealt with nagging ailments.
“It’s been interesting,” Riley said. “That’s the best way for me to say it. I don’t want to talk too much about it; it might jinx it even more. But that one has been interesting.”
Northwestern at Nebraska
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium
Radio: 103.1 FM