LINCOLN — Nebraska will play the season without Jerald Foster and maybe start it minus Corey Whitaker, leaving the offensive line to explore long-term and short-term options at left guard.
Coach Mike Riley said Friday that the report on Foster was worse than initially thought, and the sophomore would be out for all of 2016 with a torn knee ligament suffered Wednesday.
“Upon further examination, he’s actually going to have surgery and miss the season,” Riley said. “So we’re really disappointed for a number of reasons, and first of all (that) Jerald had just put in a ton of work. He was so invested into getting to where he was.”
Foster separated himself in spring practice at left guard after 2015 starter Dylan Utter moved to center. The 6-foot-3, 310-pounder from Lincoln Southeast then was securing his No. 1 spot in the first two weeks of fall camp.
“He was ready,” defensive tackle Kevin Maurice said. “I was excited to see what he was going to bring to the table this year. It was real unfortunate.”
Whitaker would have been one of the players getting an immediate shot at replacing Foster, but Riley said the senior from Murrieta, California, will have arthroscopic knee surgery and could miss up to two weeks. Nebraska opens Sept. 3 vs. Fresno State.
“That’s putting us right up against that first game,” Riley said.
Whitaker is an important piece on the line because he can play every position. But he also has previously dealt with knee injuries in 2012 and 2014 that led to missed seasons.
In the meantime, Riley said, NU will look at redshirt freshman Jalin Barnett and true freshman Boe Wilson at left guard.
“Now, I like both of those guys,” Riley said. “Physically they can play. Now we’ve got to get them up to speed and know what they’re doing, because that group has to work in unison.”
Sophomore Tanner Farmer is preparing to make his first career start at right guard.
Riley said the Huskers had no plans to move Utter back to left guard, where he started all 13 games last season.
“We sure could. We don’t want to,” he said. “We love what Utter’s doing at center.”