October 13, 2008

Pelini in no rush to play true freshmen

Nebraska's injury situation could easily be an excuse for head coach Bo Pelini is trying to give reason for the Huskers' three-game losing streak.

But despite losing starters at cornerback, linebacker, defensive line, safety and the offensive line for at least one game each already this season, Pelini said he is far from hitting the panic button.

During Monday's Big 12 coaches' teleconference, Pelini said he has refrained from burning the redshirts of several highly-touted true freshmen to help provide more depth this season because he's confident in his team's ability to find players to step up and fill the void.

At the same time, he's also keeping the Huskers' future in mind.

"I was thinking long term in that because I didn't think it was the right thing to burn their shirts right now," Pelini said of not playing his true freshmen yet. "That's about enough said. For us right now, we'll get some guys back when they're ready and they're healthy. I didn't think it was the right thing for them or their future, for those freshmen.

The biggest true freshmen candidates to come in an help Nebraska this season are linebackers Will Compton and Sean Fisher and defensive backs P.J. Smith and John Leverson.

With recent injuries to senior WILL linebacker Cody Glenn - who missed Saturday's game against Texas Tech - and junior MIKE linebacker Phillip Dillard - who was injured on Saturday - Compton and Fisher would seem like obvious candidates as replacements.

However, Pelini opted to start sophomore Blake Lawrence instead and had sophomore cornerback Eric Hagg step up and play up in a linebacker spot to help counter the Red Raiders spread passing game. Senior Tyler Wortman and true freshman walk-on Matt Holt also saw plenty of action behind Lawrence.

In fact, Compton and Fisher didn't even travel with the team on its first road trip. Cameron Meredith, Alfonzo Dennard, Mason Wald and Holt were the only true freshmen to travel with the team.

Right now, it appears that of Nebraska's 24 newcomers eligible for redshirts, 19 will not play this season.

As for the status on Glenn and Dillard, Pelini said both are still day-to-day.

"It's day to day right now," Pelini said. "We'll see how it goes today. I think they're getting better, but we're not sure where they are yet."

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