Alonzo Moore says he's mainly missed hearing Keith Williams' voice.

Maybe that doesn't sound like a big deal to you. But make no mistake, Williams' return to Nebraska football practice Thursday following a two-week suspension means plenty to the team's receivers.

"It's huge," senior slot man Jordan Westerkamp said. "I mean, we all know what kind of guy Coach Williams is. He's super-energetic and brings so much to the table when he's out there and we're practicing, and during the games.

"It's going to be a huge jolt for us as a team to get him back, to have him in this building with us preparing for the game, especially in the receiver room. …"

Added Moore, also a senior receiver: "I'm just ready to see him. I'm just happy he's back. I'm glad he wasn't taken away from my whole senior year."

Williams, a 45-year-old receivers coach, Wednesday completed the two-week suspension in which he wasn't paid. Also as part of his penalty for a DUI arrest, he is prohibited from participating in gameday activities for the first four games, starting with Saturday's home contest against Fresno State (7 p.m., BTN).

Williams was arrested after a car accident near downtown Lincoln early in the morning of Aug. 14. He subsequently pleaded not guilty to charges of drunken driving and careless driving in Lancaster County Court. He's previously been convicted of two DUIs in California — in 2004 and 2009.

His next court date is scheduled for Oct. 24.

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley has said firing Williams was considered.

As it stands, though, Williams now will be allowed to conduct position meetings, coach at practice and handle normal recruiting responsibilities.

Meanwhile, Moore counts his blessings.

"When (the arrest) first happened, it kind of had me thinking really hard about not having him for my senior year," he said. "It kind of took a toll on me for two or three days, then I shook out of it."

Westerkamp, the team's leading returning receiver, said NU graduate assistant Hardie Buck, a former Alabama special-teams standout, has been doing "a phenomenal job" in Williams' absence. An offensive graduate manager on last year's Husker staff, Buck has been in charge of receiver meetings.

Even with Williams back in the fold, Buck will continue to assist with receiver meetings.

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"Coach Buck's a little bit more blunt about things," Westerkamp said with a smile.

That's interesting, because Williams can be pretty blunt himself.

"They're both very blunt in their own way," Westerkamp said. "But Coach Buck played for Alabama under Nick Saban. He's just got that attitude."


"The No. 1 rule in the wideout room right now is to not piss him off," Westerkamp said.

Buck, in other words, commands respect. Williams, though, became a player and fan favorite — and something of a force in recruiting — with his unyielding enthusiasm and passion for teaching receivers.

Westerkamp said Williams recently spoke to the Husker receiver corps at an off-campus location. Williams, however, has not addressed the rest of the team in any sort of formal setting.

"He's doing well," Westerkamp said. "He can't wait to get back. Throughout the whole process, we were just praying for him, just waiting for his return."

It has helped matters that Nebraska has a strong veteran presence at the receiver positions, with Westerkamp joined in the group by fellow seniors Moore and Brandon Reilly, as well as junior De'Mornay Pierson-El.

Another junior, Gabe Rahn, has come out of seemingly nowhere to rise to No. 2 on the depth chart at slot receiver behind Westerkamp. A walk-on from Le Mars, Iowa, Rahn saw no game action in either 2014 or 2015.

"He competes and he's been making plays," Westerkamp said. "He's super-detailed and super-focused. He's putting it on tape, and that's what you have to see out of guys. Throughout fall camp, he's risen to the occasion."

He did much of his rising without Williams on hand. That changes Thursday.

But Nebraska will wait until an Oct. 1 home game against Illinois before Williams is back on the sideline.

"We all know what he'll want in the game," Moore said. "But his presence on the sideline is what we're going to miss. It's just hearing his voice and having him coach us up like we're in practice. We'll miss that. But we've been blessed that Coach Buck learned a lot from Coach (Williams), and we're playing for him, too."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


Husker columnist

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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