Nebraska's defense could use a boost from a star player after a lackluster Week 3 showing against Fresno State.
Whether cornerback Alfonzo Dennard can provide one remains to be seen.
Huskers coach Bo Pelini isn't sure whether Dennard will make his season debut Saturday against Washington. Dennard has been sidelined since the middle of training camp with a pulled leg muscle.
Pelini on Monday said Dennard remains ahead of schedule in his recovery but that the injury requires 6-8 weeks of rehab and he's probably in week 5 of that process.
"He's as good a corner as there is in the country, so obviously that’s going to affect you some," Pelini said. "You've got to deal with that at different times in different spots. Other guys have got to step up."
While Dennard adds a shut-down corner to Nebraska's secondary, he also brings tremendous value as a run defender, as the Omaha World-Herald's Sam McKewon writes.
Fresno State racked up 190 rush yards and 444 total yards in a 42-39 loss.
From McKewon's story:
Last year, Husker safeties rolled down into run support with ferocity. Eric Hagg, Dennard and Prince Amukamara allowed them to. The gulf between those three and Ciante Evans, Andrew Green and [Justin] Blatchford alters how NU's defense must play. Washington, Wisconsin and even Ohio State will see how Fresno emptied the box and then attacked it with power.
Pelini described the play of the Dennard-less cornerback corps as "average."
"When we play technique, we're pretty good," he said. "When we get away from our technique, we're not very good."
Pelini added of the entire unit: "I don't think we handled anything well defensively. We didn't play well."
I wouldn't want to be around Pelini or his brother Carl this week. Expect a crisper performance from the Blackshirts against a Washington team that looks mediocre on offense.
But the Huskers could use Dennard on the field as soon as possible.