|Jerry Lai / USA Today Sports|
|Bo Pelini's defense suffered some serious setbacks at the end of this week.|
It's hard to overstate how tough the past 36 hours have been for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. After all, it's not often you lose three potential starters in that short a time span.
That's what happened to Pelini. It was announced Thursday night that Charles Jackson, expected to be the main nickelback for a team that runs a lot of nickel and dime sets, was lost for the season with a knee injury. Friday afternoon, Pelini suspended potential starting free safety LeRoy Alexander for the season. And late Friday night, starting linebacker Michael Rose posted on his Instagram account that he had suffered a torn ACL and would miss the season.
"Our team morale is fine," Pelini told the Lincoln Journal Star on Saturday afternoon. "You guys (the media) will make more of it. I feel sorry for those kids. But as far as going forward, we got a lot of good players, we got a lot of good competition. We'll be just fine."
What else is a coach supposed to say? Still, the secondary was a big concern before all this happened, and it's a glaring weakness now; there simply is zero proven depth -- and the starters (outside of strong safety Corey Cooper) aren't all that experienced, either. And Rose is the most physical linebacker on the roster, and his loss means a lot of heretofore underwhelming 'backers need to make a big impact.
Pelini's job security was a question at the end of last season, and his seat is at least mildly warm heading into this season. The past 36 hours are increasing the angst.
Here are nine other points of interest from Saturday's camp news:
2. Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott is expected to start at running back for Ohio State this fall, but he had surgery for a fractured wrist Saturday. He should be back at practice Thursday or Friday, and he tweeted out that he is fine.
No worries buckeye nation im good ?â EzekielElliott#?1?5? (@EzekielElliott) August 9, 2014
3. Notre Dame's receiving corps is a concern with the loss of leading receiver T.J. Jones, as well as TE Troy Niklas. The assumption is junior DaVaris Daniels becomes the go-to receiver, but Irish coach Brian Kelly said Saturday that junior Chris Brown is getting first-team reps over Daniels. Kelly praised Brown but also said Daniels is battling a groin issue. Kelly also said backup WR Torii Hunter Jr. -- whose dad plays center field for the Detroit Tigers -- could be out up to six weeks with a groin issue of his own.
4. UCF is looking for a replacement for Jacksonville Jaguars rookie QB Blake Bortles, who made his NFL debut Friday night. The Orlando Sentinel said the decision could come Sunday. Sophomore Justin Holman, last season's backup, seems to be the likely "winner."
5. While there are no questions about Wisconsin TB Melvin Gordon as a runner, there are concerns from scouts about his receiving ability and his blocking and he has admitted as such. During the Badgers' practice Saturday, Gordon caught two passes and made a nice block in pass protection. Yes, it's just a practice and not even a scrimmage, but that he has admitted he has issues with those areas of his game bodes well for him improving in those facets.
6. South Carolina held its first scrimmage, and coach Steve Spurrier was pleased by the showing of new starting QB Dylan Thompson. The passing attack is the biggest question surrounding the Gamecocks, somewhat amazing considering this is a Spurrier-coached team. Thompson was 9-of-15 for 114 yards and a TD; he was especially sharp on the first drive, going 5-of-7 for 70 yards and the TD. "He did pretty well," Spurrier said of Thompson. "He did it about the way we've practiced. He's ready to go." South Carolina opens Aug. 28 with a big SEC game against Texas A&M.
7. Florida QB Jeff Driskel missed practice Saturday, but not because there are carryover issues from the broken leg he suffered in Game 3 last season. Instead, Driskel walked during graduation ceremonies and received his sports management degree. Two backups, wide receiver Andre Debose and fullback Gideon Ajagbe, also missed practice; both got their degrees in family, youth and community science. From all accounts early during fall camp, Driskel is completely healthy and continues to adapt well to Florida's new spread offense. He is a good athlete who struggled in the Gators' old pro-style attack.
8. Rice senior G Drew Carroll, who was expected to start this season, has to give up football because of kidney disease. Carroll was a full-time starter in 2011 and 2012, then a part-time starter last season. The disease is such that Carroll -- who is scheduled to graduate in December with a kinesiology degree -- eventually might need a kidney transplant. Carroll will serve as a student assistant this fall.
9. Baylor lost senior Clay Fuller, one of the Bears' top five wide receivers, for up to eight weeks with a broken collarbone. Good news for the Bears is that they are deep at the position. Fuller was in the running for a starting job, but seemed more likely to be a key backup. Fuller, 27, has an interesting backstory. He spent six years playing minor-league baseball in the Angels' organization (his last minor-league at-bat was a homer in Class AA ball) before giving up the sport and deciding to play college football. He walked-on at Baylor in 2011 (he had signed a baseball scholarship with the school out of high school), and gradually worked his way into a reserve role last season, when he had 32 receptions. He is an excellent athlete: During the spring, he was clocked at 4.34 seconds in the 40, had a vertical jump of 39 inches and a 10-foot-8 1/2-inch broad jump.
10. UCLA OT Simon Goines had surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle, the Orange County Register reported, and is expected to miss at least the first two games. He started 20 games in the past two seasons, but wasn't a for-sure starter this season. Malcolm Bunche, a transfer from Miami (Fla.), and Caleb Benenoch appear to be the likely starters at left and right tackle, respectively, for the Bruins.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.