September 28, 2009

Pelini addresses injury situations at safety

After losing two prominent safeties to injury on Saturday, Nebraska's health status in the secondary only got a little bit clearer on Monday.

Head coach Bo Pelini said senior safety Larry Asante would be ready to play when the Huskers travel to take on Missouri on Oct. 8. Asante injured his foot while making a break on an interception he returned 74 yards for a touchdown against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Moments after his touchdown, Asante went down to the ground and was eventually helped off the field by trainers and did not return to the game.

The news wasn't so optimistic for fellow senior safety Rickey Thenarse, who suffered a knee injury during the first quarter on Saturday. Pelini said Monday during his interview on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference that he still wasn't sure on the extent of Thenarse's injury, but said he would be "out for a while."

Should either Asante or Thenarse not be able to play against the Tigers, the Huskers would likely turn to redshirt freshman P.J. Smith to either start or see a significant amount of snaps in their absence.

On Saturday, Smith saw the most playing time of his career, finishing with one tackle and a pass interference penalty.

Along with Smith, sophomore Austin Cassidy and redshirt freshman Courtney Osborne could both be worked into the mix at safety.

Pelini said he felt comfortable with whoever ends up playing the position next Thursday, as this year's safety unit is much deeper than it was a season ago.

"I feel good about our depth at safety," Pelini said. "We're a lot deeper than we were a year ago, so I feel good about it."

Quick hits

***Pelini said Nebraska's coaching staff would spend the next couple days of this week on the road recruiting before coming back to Lincoln to begin preparation for Missouri.

***After making several big plays rushing, receiving and on special teams, freshman running back Rex Burkhead looks to quickly be emerging as a legit playmaker for the Huskers. Pelini said he's been confident in Burkhead's abilities since the day he first suited up at NU.

"I had confidence going in since Game 1," Pelini said. "I think he's a good football player… He picks things up. He's a good football player. He understands what we're asking him to do, he executes well, and I think he does a really good job."

***Pelini was asked about whether he views Missouri as a rivalry game for Nebraska considering the recent events that have transpired whenever the teams meet. Pelini said any division game could be considered a rivalry, and that he doesn't buy into using past events as extra motivation to get pumped up for any opponent.

He said the Huskers are definitely looking forward to heading down to Columbia to take on the Tigers, but only because they're the next opponent on the schedule.

"I think they're looking forward to the preparation and going down there because that's the next game," Pelini said. "It's a new year. I don't get caught up in what happened last year or recent history or what else. You got to go play a football game, and it's the next game on the schedule. That's how we'll treat it."

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