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Nebraska First Football Practice of the Upcoming Season, 8.4.16

Nebraska assistant coach Keith Williams (left) talks with Huskers wide receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, during the first football practice of the upcoming season at Hawks Championship Center.

Keith Williams has already been back at practice, but he'll now return to the sideline Saturday, with the wide receiver coach's four-game suspension coming to an end.

The penalty was imposed after Williams received a third-offense DUI in August.

"I think it's going to be great to have Keith back," Husker head coach Mike Riley said. "That was a hard, no-good situation. I think we've been through the consequences of that, so we're excited to have him back now, full-fledged into the practices, the games, and the whole part."

Junior wide receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El thinks Williams' return to the sideline will push that position group to another level against Illinois.

"I think you'll see another side of the wideout group this weekend," Pierson-El said. "He's just a bolt of energy. ... If we're not playing right, he certainly knows how to get us to play right a lot faster."

Williams would text another staff member with suggested fixes to relay to players after games, according to Pierson-El. "And then the next day (watching) film, ah, very harsh."

Senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp said grad assistant Hardie Buck, who worked with the receivers while Williams was suspended, did a good job staying on guys during Nebraska's first four games.

Apparently, Buck got on them pretty good at Northwestern.

"We were sitting on the bench and he kind of went off on us," Westerkamp said. "But it was good, because we needed it."

Nebraska was able to still get to 4-0, which is why Riley said he recently joked with Williams, "We better win, otherwise he's going back in the box."

Going for it: The last two games, Riley had gone for fourth-and-1 on NU's end of the field, and the Huskers have converted. In the first quarter of the 24-13 win against Northwestern, he even rolled the dice on the NU 30-yard line.

“I think the biggest factor in making a call like that is confidence in knowing your team," the coach said. "You have to have a good, realistic viewpoint of what's going to happen there, and you don't want any surprises. The better you know your team, the better you can make a call like that. It also has to do with how you feel it has looked to that point."

Hurting Huskers: Senior wide receiver Alonzo Moore (shoulder) and sophomore right guard Tanner Farmer (ankle) are both doubtful for this week's game.

"Tanner is probably out," Riley said. "It's a high-ankle sprain."

Moore has played the last two games with a battered shoulder, and had to take himself out at Northwestern, but only after making a big 59-yard catch.

"So our initial thing is let's just get him healthy so he doesn't have to play like that," Riley said. "He still does a good job, and I wouldn’t rule him out totally. But our inclination is to get him healthy."

Chance for Whitaker: Senior Corey Whitaker is the man who replaced Farmer at right guard Saturday. Riley said Whitaker and left tackle Nick Gates stuck out as Nebraska's top O-line performers in the game.

"After that first drive I came back with the guys and I was like, 'At least I'm warm now,'" Whitaker said.

The veteran from Murrieta, California, has been through three knee surgeries, including a minor procedure just a couple weeks before the opener.

"I've never quit at anything, so I wasn't going to start now," Whitaker said of why he kept playing after those injuries. "And I think that was the biggest thing coming here, is that I was going to finish it out strong regardless of the situations or anything that happened."

Boe on deck: Because of the injury to Farmer, Riley said true freshman Boe Wilson again has to possibly be ready to play given the limited depth.

The presumed starting left guard, Jerald Foster, was lost to a knee injury before the season, and Riley said two more scout-teamers have gone down. "We're getting kind of thin there."

Redshirt freshman Jalin Barnett has also been dinged up, but according to Riley, "he'll move back into that picture."

— Clark Grell and Brian Christopherson

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

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