Nebraska vs. Illinois, 9/29/17

Nebraska running back Devine Ozigbo (22) tries to shake Illinois defensive back Stanley Green in the fourth quarter Friday in Champaign, Ill.

GWYNETH ROBERTS, Journal Star

Plenty has been said and written about Nebraska's running back situation, but one element shouldn't be overlooked.

Each of the top backs has improved markedly since last season.

We certainly saw that in sophomore Tre Bryant, who rushed for 299 yards (5.9 ypc) in the first two games before being sidelined by a nagging knee injury. He won't play Saturday night, Mike Riley said Monday.

As for junior Devine Ozigbo's main area of improvement, "It's getting up-field (better) -- being more of a down-the-field runner and not so much an east-and-west guy," Husker running backs coach Reggie Davis said Monday night after practice. "When you get the chance to see daylight up the field, take it. That's been a huge improvement for him in my eyes."

As for fellow junior Mikale Wilbon, Davis said, "Really it's his understanding of the passing game and what he's been able to do pass-pro wise. That has been very good to see."

* Davis said Bryant is handling his injury "as well as can be expected."

"He continues to rehab and do everything in his power to get back," the coach said. "He's believing he'll be able to get back and play. We look forward to the day he can."

* Davis said Wilbon injured his ankle sometime during the 14-play, 93-yard touchdown drive Friday that spanned the third and early fourth quarters. Wilbon sat out Monday. If he were unable to play Saturday, Nebraska obviously would lean hard on Ozigbo and true freshman Jaylin Bradley. "We have other backs in the room," Davis said. "We still have Wyatt Mazour, Austin Rose. Both of those guys had good springs."

* Davis was matter-of-fact about true freshman Jaylin Bradley's potential promotion on the depth chart in the event Wilbon is sidelined. "Well, you'd go from being the third guy to the second guy, (so) you've got to be very ready."

* Nebraska fed Ozigbo 11 straight times on the final drive at Illinois, which isn't necessarily an oddity in that type of situation, Davis said. The mindset behind going to the big back over and over? "As long as the guy can handle it, and the line's getting movement, then you want to keep doing it," the coach said. "Don't stop yourselves, and make them stop you."

* The battle for the starting job at running back is ongoing, Davis said. "Those guys know there's competition as long as there's a football out there. I think it's pretty clear to them you've got to perform week in and week out if you want to be able to be the starter. There's no secret there."

* Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said Wisconsin's defense will be "easily" the best the Huskers (3-2, 2-0 Big Ten) have faced to this point.

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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