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Bo Pelini thinks Randy Gregory will return for senior season

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Nebraska junior defensive end Randy Gregory hasn't been quite as productive as he was last season, but he remains an intriguing -- and high-level -- prospect because of his athleticism and ability to rush the passer.

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Still, Huskers coach Bo Pelini indicated Monday during his weekly news conference that he thinks Gregory will be on the field for Nebraska again next season.

» See where Gregory ranks among CFB's top 10 pass rushers

Nebraska plays at Wisconsin on Saturday in a big Big Ten showdown, and Pelini was asked about the performance of his defensive line going into the contest.

"It's still really a pretty young group. We're not going to lose any of them," he told reporters. "I'm seeing them develop. I think they're playing well. I see them getting better and more consistent in a lot of things, but still see a lot of areas where they can get better, keep developing."

The "we're not going to lose any of them" part of that sentence is the newsworthy one because that presumably includes Gregory, who is in his second season with the Huskers after transferring in from junior college.

» Scout: Gregory 'hasn't scratched the surface' of his potential

Pelini later tried to clarify what he meant by the statement, but didn't totally back off from it, either.

While Pelini's comment is interesting, remember that Gregory hasn't said anything of late about his plans for next season. What a coach says/thinks often is quite different from what a player says/thinks.

Gregory (6-foot-6, 248 pounds) could stand to add more bulk and strength, but his upside as a pass rusher is tremendous -- and NFL teams have shown a willingness to overlook a lack of size when they draft pass rushers. Consider recent first-round selections Bruce Irvin (2012, by the Seattle Seahawks), Dion Jordan (2013, by the Miami Dolphins), Barkevious Mingo (2013, by the Cleveland Browns) and Dee Ford (2014, by the Kansas City Chiefs) as proof.

Gregory has 5.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, 37 tackles and 14 quarterback hurries this season. He had 10.5 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, 66 tackles and 18 quarterback hurries last season.

If Gregory does return, he and tackle Maliek Collins (6-2, 300) -- a sophomore who has nine tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hurries this season -- will give the Huskers a great 1-2 punch up front. Monday, Pelini compared Collins to Glenn Dorsey, who played at LSU when Pelini was the team's defensive coordinator (2005-07).

"I see a lot of similarities in how they play, how they move, some of their strengths," Pelini said during his news conference. "What Maliek has, though, is that he's a little bit bigger."

Dorsey was a first-round pick of the Chiefs in 2008. Coincidentally, Collins is from Kansas City.

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

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