LINCOLN — It’s possible that Nebraska could be heading into the Illinois game without offensive guard Tanner Farmer and receiver Alonzo Moore, with head coach Mike Riley calling both doubtful on Monday.
Farmer suffered a high ankle sprain during the Northwestern game on Saturday night and was replaced by Corey Whitaker at right guard.
Moore has played the last two games despite a shoulder injury, and missed some practice time last week. The senior leads the Huskers in receptions (12) and receiving yards (310), and ranks fifth nationally by averaging 25.8 yards per catch.
Nebraska has a bye week after the Illinois game.
“Our initial thing is let’s just get him healthy so he doesn’t have to play like that,” Riley said. “I wouldn’t rule him out totally, but our inclination is to get him healthy.”
Also Monday, receiver Jordan Westerkamp said he feels good through four games after requiring offseason surgery for a groin injury.
“I’m good,” said Westerkamp, who then took a few steps over to knock on a wall. “Bad question. I’m good, just aches and pains. Normal senior stuff. That’s how it is.”
Williams will return Saturday
Nebraska will have assistant coach Keith Williams back on the sideline for the first time this season on Saturday.
“I think you’ll see another side of the wideout group this weekend,” junior De’Mornay Pierson-El said. “He’s just a bolt of energy. And if we’re not playing right, he certainly knows how to get us to play right a lot faster. I think it’ll just be back to kind of how it was.”
Williams has been fulfilling the last of his punishments for an arrest last month and a third-offense drunken driving charge. He had returned to practice Sept. 1 after being suspended without pay for two weeks, and was prohibited from game-day activities for the first four Saturdays on the Husker schedule.
Williams pleaded not guilty to charges of drunken driving and careless driving for the Aug. 14 incident, and his next court date is Oct. 24.
NU graduate assistant Hardie Buck was coaching the receivers during games, but Pierson-El said it felt like “we’re still one man short.” Pierson-El said the veteran receiving corps also looked to each other and used peer evaluation to avoid any dropoff.
“We all know what we’re supposed to do, what it’s supposed to look like,” he said. “We’re still missing it from him, but we still got the coaching we need.”
Since the decision and consequences were set, Riley said Williams handled it “exactly as we would’ve wanted him to.”
Now a starter, Williams trying to stay hungry
In his first two years at Nebraska, junior safety Kieron Williams was one of the top special teams players with 16 total tackles and a school record of two blocked punts in the 2014 Holiday Bowl against USC. Now a starter and a Blackshirt, Williams is one of Nebraska’s top secondary players. With four starts in four games, Williams has two interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and leads the team with 30 tackles.
Although he is gaining more experience every week, Williams is making sure he doesn’t get too relaxed at his position.
“I think you can’t ever get to comfortable, cause that’s when you’ll slip,” Williams said. “I just try to always stay focused and just try to prepare every single week like it could be my last week playing.”
» In his weekly game review, Riley said he liked how linebacker Dedrick Young, cornerback Chris Jones and defensive tackle Kevin Maurice played against Northwestern. Young and Maurice played their best games of the season, Riley said.
» Mick Stoltenberg played 20 snaps, Riley said, which was the right number after playing too many against Oregon. Stoltenberg is trying to recover from a knee scope surgery that took place right before the season.
» Nick Gates and Corey Whitaker graded highest among offensive linemen. Whitaker replaced an injured Tanner Farmer in the game.
» Illinois will feature the best defensive line Nebraska has played this season, Riley said, adding that senior defensive end Dawuane Smoot gave the Huskers problems in 2015, when the Illini beat NU 14-13. Illinois plays man-to-man coverage most of the time, Riley said, but will switch to a Cover 2 defense on third down, in which the safeties defend the deep middle of the field while linebackers drop into zone coverage underneath it. The Cover 2 is a staple of Illinois coach Lovie Smith’s defenses in the NFL.