Lincoln, NE - When the Nebraska Cornhuskers take the field this Saturday against Idaho State, they will have a key component of the offense back in the lineup.
“Rex (Burkhead) will play. He is going to practice today,” said head coach Bo Pelini on Monday at his morning presser. “How much we give him will depend on how he progresses through the week, but he could have probably played last week.”
Burkhead has been out two weeks, after spraining his MCL in the first quarter of the Huskers opening game of the year against Southern Miss. The reigning first-team All-Big Ten running back ran for 1,357 yards in 2011.
"He's listened to the trainers, he's listened to the doctors," Pelini said. "He's attacked the rehab just like he does everything else.
“I think he's ready to play. He's anxious and nipping at us to try and get him in there. Right now I think is the right time. I think he will be a heck of a lot more ready this Saturday than he was this last Saturday. I think he'll be pretty much 100 percent."
In his absence, sophomore running back Ameer Abdullah has run for 367 yards in three games – including a 30 carry, 167 yard performance on Saturday afternoon against Arkansas State in a 42-13 win.
Questions have already begun to rise on how the carries will be distributed between the two backs going forward. Burkhead carried the ball 284 times in 2011, something the Huskers were already looking to avoid this season.
“In Rex’s absence, Ameer has run well,” said Pelini. “We will manage Rex, especially this week.
Abdullah might not be the only running back the Nebraska coaching staff also feels pressure to play when Burkhead returns.
Sophomore Braylon Heard has 16 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown this season, while true freshman Imani Cross has recorded 18 carries for 128 yards and a score.
On Monday, Abdullah was asked how he expects the touches to be handled going forward.
“It’s definitely going to be different. I won’t be getting 30 carries like I did on Saturday, but I also feel like you can’t put the workload you did on Rex last year coming off injury,” said Abdullah. “I feel like a change of pace is always necessarily. It puts pressure on the defense and I think we do a good job of that.”
Despite just playing a few drives against Southern Miss in week one, Burkhead had three carries for 68 yards and a touchdown.