The sad news Thursday at Nebraska of a season-ending injury to defensive back Charles Jackson was followed Friday with a shocker: Sophomore safety LeRoy Alexander, the top candidate to start alongside Corey Cooper, has been suspended for the 2014 season.
Coach Bo Pelini made the announcement in a press release, saying that Alexander would remain on scholarship and practice with the team. The coach plans to make no additional comment.
Alexander’s absence further damages the prospects for a secondary that already featured some of the most pressing questions on a defense expected to serve as the strength of Pelini’s seventh team in Lincoln. The Huskers were faced with replacing three starters in the five-man defensive backfield from a year ago, and now, two of those replacements are lost.
Alexander started one game last year as a redshirt freshman out of Toledo, Ohio, and collected 34 tackles with one interception.
He performed well in spring practice alongside converted linebacker Nathan Gerry at safety as the senior Cooper sat out with an injury.
With Cooper back, Gerry, who played safety in high school, likely slides into a starting role.
Depth is a concern. Redshirt freshman D.J. Singleton and true freshman Kieron Williams, solid in the opening week of preseason practice, appear to fit as the top backups at safety. Drake Martinez left the program in the offseason after a redshirt season last fall.
The losses of Jackson and Alexander remove two of the top athletes from this Nebraska defense. Still three weeks from the Aug. 30 opener against Florida Atlantic, the Huskers can ill afford more bad news in the secondary.