Nebraska will be close to full strength when they take on Michigan on Saturday. Coach Bo Pelini said defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Chase Rome are both expected to play this week after missing the Northwestern game. Running back Rex Burkhead did not dress for practice.
With Burkhead’s potential absence, Ameer Abdullah will once again step into the featured role at running back but that won’t change any of his duties on special teams.
“We’re going to play it like we have,” Pelini said. ”Ameer will be playing running back, he’ll be returning some kicks for us. We have a full range of players at the running back position, between Ameer, Braylon and Imani. We feel good about where we’re at.”
Sophomore Braylon Heard and true freshman Imani Cross could both see some additional carries if Burkhead’s not able to go. Cross came in last week in a critical spot in the fourth quarter, a reflection of his progression this season.
“I think he’s getting more comfortable,” Pelini said. “Obviously the more he plays, the more he’s in the system, he’s developed a better understanding of everything that has to go with the system: protection-wise and carrying the football. I think he’s more prepared now than he was during the year.”
While Abdullah will remain on both return teams, Nebraska has made some other changes on special teams.
“We’re going to see how it turns out on Saturday, but we’ve moved some guys around,” Pelini said. ”We put a couple new guys in on a couple of the return teams. We’ll see how it works out. It looked good in practice, and they’ve got to carry it over to Saturday.”
Defensively, Sean Fisher could see some more snaps either as Will Compton’s backup in nickel and dime formations or in Nebraska’s base sets if Michigan goes big.
“You’re going to see him this week,” Pelini said. “Like last week he’ll spell Will at the Mike linebacker position in nickel and dime and I would anticipate that we’re going to play some base this week depending on what they show. I’m sure we’re going to see some bigger sets from these guys.”