Arkansas State vs. Nebraska, 9/2/17

Nebraska running back Tre Bryant (18) is chased down the sideline by Arkansas State defensive back Justin Clifton on Sept. 2.

FRANCIS GARDLER, Journal Star

Nebraska's injury list isn't necessarily long, but the players on it are critical pieces of the puzzle.

Husker head coach Mike Riley said Monday that starting safety Joshua Kalu is doubtful for Saturday's game against Northern Illinois because of a hamstring injury. In addition, right tackle David Knevel (ankle) is also doubtful, while running back Tre Bryant (knee) is questionable.

A senior from Houston, Kalu suffered his injury midway through the second quarter against Oregon and was out of uniform by game's end. Junior Antonio Reed took Kalu's place aside fellow junior safety Aaron Williams.

Reed has played in some of NU's packages over the first two games, but saw extensive action after Kalu went down.

"He improved as the game went along," Riley said of Reed. "Just like our team."

Meanwhile, Bryant has quickly emerged this season as one of Nebraska's premier offensive weapons. Riley expressed concern over Bryant's nagging knee injury that dates to high school and could hold back the running back. But the sophomore suffered no new injury or damage Saturday.

"He just has a knee that we need to take care of," Riley said. "It's nothing that's really happened since he's been here. His knee is just older than his age."

Bryant left the game at Oregon early in the fourth quarter and never returned, but running backs coach Reggie Davis thinks he'll play against Northern Illinois.

"We'll just take care of him and monitor what he's doing exactly, but he'll be fine," Davis said. "All of his tests came back negative. He's straight. He's ready to go."

Asked specifically about Saturday, Davis said, "He's good to go."

A native of St. Louis, Bryant has opened the season in electrifying fashion. He has 51 carries for 299 yards (5.9 per carry) and two touchdowns after carrying only 43 times for 172 a year ago.

"We've been careful with him in practice," Riley said. "We'll be careful again."

He said Nebraska coaches will decide sometime before Wednesday's practice whether Bryant will be ready for the game.

"What he has does not prevent him from playing, obviously," Riley said. "We were mindful after the first game that 31 carries might be at the high end of what he should do. I also have always had the sense that a back that is good enough, tough enough and versatile enough gets better in the game. He sees things better, he learns in the game."

On the offensive line, freshman Matt Farniok is in line for his second career start if Knevel, a senior who was an eight-game starter in 2016, remains out.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

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Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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