The injury carousel spins round in Lincoln.

The bad news is the Huskers continue to have a lengthy injury report. The good news is that at one key spot, middle linebacker, the loss of one player is evened out by the return of another.

Junior Josh Banderas, who hasn't played since the Miami game due to a nagging groin injury, is expected to play Saturday at Minnesota.

"It's very good timing because I don't think Chris Weber can play," said Husker coach Mike Riley. "He will not go."

Weber, who suffered a neck injury, played well during Banderas' absence, including a 17-tackle game against Illinois. While the Huskers will be able to trot out the starting linebacker trio of Banderas, Marcus Newby and Dedrick Young, they remain thin as a string of floss at linebacker, with redshirt freshman Luke Gifford also questionable for this week.

"We're going to again check that out (Friday)," Riley said of the Gifford injury, which is a hip. "We're waiting to see. We need every bit of depth we can find at that linebacker position."

Elsewhere, Riley had been hopeful cornerback Daniel Davie (groin) could return this week, but that doesn't look likely. Linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey (groin) and defensive tackle Kevin Williams (groin) also won't be back.

Defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, who gutted out about 50 snaps last week despite being hobbled from an ankle sprain, tweaked the injury again Wednesday, "but looks like he's going to be ready to play," Riley said.

Defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun is expected to be out another week or two.

Perhaps highlighting the bizarre news on the injury front this week is the case at right guard. It looked early in the week as if senior starter Chongo Kondolo might be out with an infected toe. 

It briefly appeared that walk-on senior Chris Long of Blair might get his first career start in place of Kondolo. Then Long suffered an injury Wednesday. Fortunately, Kondolo's treatment allowed him to return to the field quickly after feeling a lot of pain earlier in the week.

"That's the way it goes," Riley said with a laugh at the oddness of how it's all gone down. "So we've been kind of fortunate that guys are at least getting ready when the other guy is not anymore."

* SIXTH YEAR? Defensive tackle Kevin Williams, in the program since 2011, is listed as a senior. But given that he suffered knee injuries that took away both his 2011 and 2013 seasons, he's applying for another year so he can play for NU in 2016.

Riley is optimistic about his chances.

"From what I know about the case, that they're very good," the coach said. "We've submitted them through the years, and appealed for some guys. I've never had one work. This one I actually think has the background to help it go, and I sure hope that that's the case."

* PIERSON-EL RETURNS? Will De'Mornay Pierson-El go back to punt return duties this week?

"That remains to be seen," Riley said. "We're certainly looking forward to that time."

* SENIOR EXPERIENCE: Right tackle Nick Gates, as expected early in the week, will not play because of a high-ankle sprain suffered in the first half of the 23-21 loss to Wisconsin. "Outside chance next week," Riley said of when Gates will return.

In the meantime, Riley is glad to have a senior like right tackle Zach Sterup who has 10 starts under his belt from last season.

"I admire Zach Sterup," Riley said. "It's a situation where he's been a good football player and played a lot. And in the competitive battles that go on for spots, we put Nick Gates as a starter in that deal in a tough competition. But Zach has kept a good attitude, and as a senior who played a lot, that's why I admire it. So he'll be ready."

* RIGHT RESPONSE: Riley has applauded his team for answering the bell after every loss and coming back to practice working hard.

How about after the fourth loss? Same hard work, he said.

"Practice has been fine. I will be shocked if we don't really compete in every way to win the game."

* QB KICKER: Word is redshirt freshman quarterback AJ Bush booted a 50-yard field goal during Thursday's practice. Apparently he had the help of a tee, but still, it got teammates hopping.

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


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