Nebraska coach Bo Pelini joked Thursday that new long snapper Paul Kelly -- who previously held those duties at Miami (Florida) was picked up off the "waiver wire."
In Kelly's case, Pelini's joke was literally true: Nebraska had to petition the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility. The NCAA pushed the request through and granted it.
"Our compliance department -- Jamie Vaughn and his crew -- did a phenomenal job of working with the NCAA to get a waiver," Pelini said. "It gives us a whole other option."
Kelly is on scholarship. The starting long snapper on Saturday was true freshman Josh Faulkenberry after previous starter Gabe Miller was lost long-term to an injury. Faulkenberry's backup was safety Nate Gerry.
"That gets a little scary, with a guy who's playing defense and all that," Pelini said.
Gregory ‘a lot better’
Defensive end Randy Gregory (left knee) and wide receiver Brandon Reilly (hamstring) will not play Saturday. Wide receiver Sam Burtch (head) and right tackle Zach Sterup (leg) will play.
Gregory had his knee scoped on Sunday after an old basketball injury flared up.
“He’s doing a lot better,” Pelini said. “He’s running. I think he’ll be back in short order.”
Wood River junior Jack Gangwish will start in Gregory’s absence.
“I have a lot of confidence in Jack,” Pelini said. “He’s physical and he plays hard.”
Pelini expects to see more from junior Joe Keels and redshirt freshman A.J. Natter as well. Keels, Pelini said, has been battling an ankle injury and is just now getting healthy.
“They’ll be better just for the sheer fact that they got their feet wet a little bit,” Pelini said.
Nebraska is now leaning toward redshirting Lincoln Southeast freshman Jerald Foster, who moved from offensive line to defensive line late in fall camp after Aaron Curry left the team.
Bo likes new routine
Pelini continues to laud the new practice schedule, in which Nebraska does its walkthrough on Thursday, with a 55-minute, fast, fairly physical practice on Friday. The Thursday practice, Pelini said, ties up the week of preparation, while the Friday workout runs through key principles one more time at a quick pace.
“We practice fast and full speed, but we practice smart,” Pelini said. “Staying off of collisions and playing the football — don’t want to get guys tangled up and that kind of thing — but it’s not that much different from what we used to do on Thursday. We keep it at 55 minutes. A little less than an hour. It gives you a chance to go through your tips, your game plan.”
Touches for Cross
Look for junior I-back Imani Cross — who had three carries against Florida Atlantic — to get more of them against McNeese State. As Cross watched from the sideline, sophomore Terrell Newby topped 100 yards.
Cross “got a bunch of snaps the other day,” Pelini said, “but it seemed like, when he was in, we were throwing the football for whatever reason. But I’d like to see him get some more carries. You don’t realize it sometimes until you look at the stat sheet.”
Pelini has always been hyper-focused on his own team, to the exclusion of following other games in the Big Ten or around the nation. It’s no different Saturday, when the league has three big nonconference tilts — Michigan State at Oregon, Virginia Tech at Ohio State and Michigan at Notre Dame — that could significantly help or hurt the league’s profile when battling for College Football Playoff bids.
“I don’t get caught up in that,” Pelini said. “I think our league, whether it’s week to week, a bowl game or whatever, can stack up against anybody with its depth and the quality of the football that’s played. And how those three games play out, I don’t know. ... I know they’re all going to play well. I know they’ll represent well. But they’re all playing three good football teams, so how it comes out, I don’t think it’s real representative one way or the other.
“I think sometimes people put a little too much into that kind of thing. It’s more about, how do you play over a 12-week stretch? At the end of the day, all these teams that are playing right now, whether they win (or) they lose, there’s a lot of football ahead of them. And they’re going to be different teams in October and November than they are right now, I promise you.”