Thursday practice nuggets
Here are some quick notes and observations to pass along from Nebraska's walk-through practice on Thursday afternoon inside Memorial Stadium...
***Head coach Mike Riley said both receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El (foot) and defensive end Jack Gangwish (elbow) will play in some capacity against Illinois on Saturday. Both players have practiced all week without any setbacks.
***On the other hand, Riley said defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (ankle) is "very doubtful" to play after missing essentially all week of practice. Riley said he was "a little hopeful" that linebacker Josh Banderas (groin) could play, but added that "it doesn't look good" after Banderas was limited all week. Cornerback Daniel Davie is also questionable with a groin injury.
***One player who is definitely out is defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who hasn't practiced all week due to a hand/thumb injury.
***Riley said he wasn't sure exactly what Pierson-El's role would be against Illinois, but did say the sophomore would get some looks at both receiver and punt returner. In fact, Pierson-El's biggest impact on Saturday could be in the return game since there was far less rust to knock off in that area than there was trying to work back into the offense.
***With potentially two defensive tackles out, Riley said true freshman Carlos Davis will travel to Illinois on what Riley likes to call a "redshirt alert". Riley said Davis has been working with the defense the past two weeks, and if NU "absolutely has to play him" he will be used and burn his redshirt. However, Riley added that the staff still very much wants to keep his redshirt if possible, and that he's learned to be "ultra careful" in these situations over the years.
***Riley also said Mick Stoltenberg would "for sure" be in the rotation at defensive tackle on Saturday and likely on though the rest of the season. Riley said Stoltenberg had a "bright future" and had all the physical tools to be an effective player on the interior defensive line.
***Because Nebraska is being forced to bring redshirting players for road games, it does cause a problem with staying within the 70-man travel roster limit of the Big Ten. That means at least one players who might normally travel will not go to Illinois so Davis can travel.
***Riley said the biggest improvements he wants to see from his team were improved big play defense and tackling and then eliminating the procedural penalties on offense. He also said the left side of NU's field goal team was really struggled this season and had to get better.
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