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Nebraska loses Michael Rose, LeRoy Alexander for season

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Michael Conroy / Associated Press
LeRoy Alexander is able to practice, just not play in games, this year for Nebraska.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was all about showing a more positive attitude during the offseason, but it seems doubtful he can be all that cheerful with the news he has received about his defense in the past 24 hours.

Nebraska's secondary was an issue heading into fall camp, and it has become an even bigger question after one week of practice. Sophomore LeRoy Alexander, one of two players in the hunt for the starting job at free safety, has been suspended for the season, the school announced Friday. The release said Alexander -- who started once and played in every game last season -- would practice but not play this fall. His suspension comes one day after junior Charles Jackson, who was in line to be the starting nickelback for a team that runs a lot of nickel sets, was lost for the season with an injury.

Then came an Instagram late Friday from starting middle linebacker Michael Rose (6-foot-0, 240) that he tore his ACL and would miss the season. Linebacker play was spotty for the Huskers last season, but the group did seem to develop as the season progressed. But Rose's injury means depth now becomes a huge issue at linebacker. Rose made 66 tackles -- a school record for a freshman -- last season, when he started seven games.

While Nebraska uses a lot of nickel sets, Rose is a true inside linebacker, and there aren't a lot of those on the Huskers' roster. The other projected starting linebackers are 225-pounder David Santos and 220-pounder Zaire Anderson, and there is no clear-cut replacement for Rose.

The starter at free safety now almost certainly will be sophomore Nathan Gerry (6-2, 205), who made three starts at outside linebacker last season as a true freshman; he moved back to his natural safety position during the spring.

But there is zero proven depth at either safety spot, and it seems a given that a true freshman will see time. Kieron Williams (6-0, 185) might be the guy. He was a late signee, joining the program over the summer out of the U.S. Air Force Prep Academy.

Nebraska has one full-time starter back in the secondary, and senior strong safety Corey Cooper should contend for All-Big Ten honors. Senior cornerback Josh Mitchell was a part-time starter last season, but with the injury to Jackson and the suspension of Alexander, no one else in the current secondary has seen appreciable playing time. The good news for Nebraska is that the rebuilt secondary will be able to ease into the season; the Huskers' first two games are against Florida Atlantic and FCS member McNeese State.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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