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Randy Gregory

Randy Gregory (LJS file photo)

Randy Gregory doesn't feel quite as good as new yet, but hopes to be real close to it by the time the plane lands in Fresno.

Nebraska's junior defensive end had originally planned to return to practice on Wednesday. But he woke up feeling good Tuesday and suited up for practice, though his role was limited.

"Probably 90-95 percent," Nebraska's junior defensive end said of his knee. "Hopefully 100 percent on Saturday."

Gregory said he went into the opener battling a groin injury. The knee issue "came out of nowhere." After the fourth play, he felt it clicking and locking up on him.

A day later, Gregory had minor surgery to clean up the problem. It's more mental than physical now, he says.

"My cutting is fine. My straight-line speed is great. And it honestly feels cleaner in the knee running on it. But I just want to take it slow. … I think all the trainers and coaches know I can do it on the field physically. I just want to get it in my head."

Now he's eager to get back in game action and help Nebraska's pass rush, among other things. The Huskers have just two sacks in the first two games.

"I think that's something I can help out in, at least with the sacks, and hopefully causing turnovers," Gregory said. "But we got to be able to do it without me. I'm not always going to be out there and people have to step up. That's the biggest thing. When we get under pressure like (Saturday), we start looking around instead of someone being a leader."

Nebraska survived its game without Gregory, but just barely, beating McNeese State 31-24. It wasn't easy for the D-end to watch.

After notching 10½ sacks a season ago, he's only played in one series during Nebraska's first two games.

"It was tough," he said, "just knowing there were plays here and there I felt I could have made. ... Anybody that loves competing, loves the sport, I think wants to be out there on the field, helping the team. It was real hard being on the sideline, but I could only do what I could, giving them advice."

His coaches are definitely excited to have his talents back in the mix.

“If he goes out and plays like he’s capable of, he’s one of the better defensive players in the country, so having him back certainly helps," said defensive coordinator John Papuchis.

Gregory hasn't been told if his role would be limited in any way on Saturday against Fresno State.

"But if I'm going to play, I'm going to go out there and play every play ... I'm going to go out there and put it all on the field."

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

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