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Nebraska's depth at safety will be tested with Thenarse's injury

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Nebraska could be facing a quandary at safety as key backup Rickey Thenarse won't practice this week and might be out for an extended period.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Monday he isn't sure how severe Thenarse's knee injury is. Pelini only stated that Thenarse "will be out for a while."

Thenarse landed awkwardly on his right knee while covering a first-quarter kickoff in the Cornhuskers' 55-0 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette last week. He did not return to the game.

The injury is a concern for the Cornhuskers, who are battling depth at that position while preparing for next week's Big 12 opener against Missouri. Pelini had recently praised Thenarse for his development in the Nebraska defense.

Thenarse's injury will mean that several inexperienced players will be called on to back up starting senior strong safety Larry Asante and starting senior free safety Matt O'Hanlon.

Redshirt freshmen Courtney Osborne and P.J. Smith and sophomore Austin Cassidy all received extensive playing time after Asante was injured on a 74-yard interception return against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Asante's injury isn't considered serious and he's expected to return to practice this week.

But the extra work for the backups was beneficial in his absence to build confidence in the developing group.

"I feel good about our depth at safety,” Pelini said. “We’re a lot deeper there than we were a year ago, so I feel good about it.”