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McNeese State vs. Nebraska, 9.6.14

Chased by Nebraska defensive back Joshua Kalu (2), McNeese State quarterback Daniel Sams (4) directs his receivers down field in fourth-quarter action at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014.

Coach Bo Pelini could tell when Joshua Kalu arrived on campus this summer that the defensive back had the type of approach that could make him a contributor immediately for the Huskers.

After playing key snaps in the fourth quarter of Nebraska's narrow win against McNeese State, don't be surprised if Kalu has an important role on the defense when the Huskers play at Fresno State this weekend.

"He has the ability, the temperament, very mature kid as a football player," Pelini said. "How he prepares, how he is in meetings. His understanding of the game. Believe me, he has a ways to go yet. But I think the future's very bright for that kid."

The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder from Houston is trusted enough that he was on the field for key defensive snaps with the game up in the air last Saturday. He chased McNeese State quarterback Daniel Sams out of the pocket on one key third-down play, forcing him to throw the ball away.

Kalu made his mark again on special teams, where he's a gunner, drilling the return man just after he caught the ball at his 10-yard line.

And as Nebraska's top dime linebacker, he could see a lot of action against Fresno State's style of offense.

"If they spread us out a lot, I think you're going to see him getting a significant amount of snaps, which I think will be important for him," Pelini said. "I like where he is."

* KEY PARTS: The Huskers will have both defensive end Randy Gregory and Kenny Bell available Saturday, Pelini said.

Gregory (knee) missed almost all of the first two games and Bell (groin) missed the last three quarters last week.

"Randy looks great. He went the whole day yesterday. No issues," the coach said.

Nebraska is a little thin at wide receiver. Sam Burtch (head) and Brandon Reilly (hamstring) will not make the trip.

Still, Pelini said he feels OK about NU's depth at the position. Among those who will travel with the team is true freshman Glenn Irons, who as it stands, still maintains his redshirt status.

"Obviously, Kenny is healthy, that helps. ... I like what we're doing as far as our personnel groups and things offensively. We have a lot of different options, so I think we'll be fine as far as our depth is concerned," Pelini said.

* D-LINE DEPTH: Pelini said he isn't afraid to put in either Joe Keels or A.J. Natter as backup at defensive end. "With Randy back, I'd expect to see at least one of those guys get a significant number of snaps. Hopefully both of them."

The coach also said junior defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who sat out last Saturday's game, will make the trip and has a chance to see some snaps.

* LATE DEPARTURE: Because of the late Saturday night start (9:30 p.m. CST), the Huskers will be leaving Lincoln later than usual.

NU plans to practice in Lincoln, and eat dinner here, before leaving at about 5 p.m. Friday.

"We have some things in place as far as the hydration part of things, preparing these guys to play in a late game," Pelini said. "I'm not worried about the time of the game or the time change or anything like that. I think our guys understand what they need to do."

* FREEDOM: True freshman Freedom Akinmoladun isn't expected to play this year, but the 6-4, 230-pound tight end has the sort of frame that has coaches salivating. Coaches on both sides of the ball.

You see, some of those defensive coaches wouldn't mind seeing Akinmoladun as a defensive end.

"We're holding off on that ... (but) the defensive guys, they want him," Pelini said with a laugh. "I think Freedom's going to be a good football player. He's doing a good job on scout team. He's got a lot to learn, but he's a big, talented kid who can run. It's too early to tell. He's so young and raw, but he's going to be a good football player."

* POSITIVE PREP: Pelini liked how his team prepared this week. But then, he didn't think it prepared all that bad last week.

"We didn't have a horrible week of prep," he said. "But it was like we didn't have our stinger when we took the field. We played hard. We just didn't play smart and play with technique. Our how-to got lost sometime between the Friday practice and Saturday. Like I said, hopefully it's a lesson learned."

— Brian Christopherson

​Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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