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No ‘Positive Spin’ to Huskers’ Losses in Secondary

July 25, 2017

CHICAGO – One of the biggest story-lines heading into Big Ten Media Days for Nebraska was the loss of cornerback Chris Jones to a torn meniscus and what Nebraska would do to fill his spot on defense.

Riley was not at the podium on Tuesday morning long before a reporter raised the question about Jones’ loss.

“I absolutely hated that news about Chris Jones,” Riley said. “It was a big, big surprise. This is a very good player, a very good guy. Really fun to be around, and loved football. I’m really hopeful for his return. When that is, I’m not sure.”

Following his stint at the podium, Riley spoke with the local media and expanded on Nebraska’s options to replace Jones at first string field side cornerback.

“We have some options to think about,” Riley said. “I think that the players who are basically the next men up at the position, that is definitely an option that I will say I’m excited about.”

Redshirt freshman Dicaprio Bootle was listed as Jones’ backup during the spring while sophomore Eric Lee was working at boundary cornerback behind starter Lamar Jackson and was also the top option to play in the slot in Nebraska’s nickel defense.

One common suggestion has been to move senior Joshua Kalu back from safety to corner after the coaches asked him to change positions during the spring, and Riley addressed that option at the podium.

“Does Josh Kalu move back from playing safety to corner? … We love him at safety, we loved how that looked in spring ball,” Riley said. “We are at this time reluctant to say this is exactly what we’re going to do.”

Riley expanded on the thought of moving a player from another position in his post-podium session.

“The option of some movement is also interesting, whether it’s Josh Kalu or maybe Lamar going to the field,” Riley said. “I think that we have to be careful because you don’t want to all of a sudden weaken yourself at multiple spots by making a move. You want to remain as consistent as you can and really, one of the factors is frankly we don’t have a lot of depth in the secondary of guys that have played in the games. The multiple losses of JoJo Domain and Chris Jones is not good. I cannot spin that in any positive way. That is not a good thing.”

The Huskers do have some experienced depth at safety, which could make a Kalu move more palatable. However, that Riley did not mention either Kieron Williams nor Antonio Reed yet cited the loss of Domann could be a sign of how the coaches feel about those players.

Whatever decision the Huskers will make to replace their best defender, Riley said they are going to have to do it soon.

“With that, we have to go forward and turn that page and make it good,” Riley said. “We cannot ever use this as a reason or an excuse but it is something that we have to study here in the next few days, make a final decision on it, go forward and say this is going to be really good.”

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