Ryan Abraham - Randy Gregory has been an absolute beast, but injuries have been a bit of an issue lately for him. What has been wrong with him and what is his status for the game?
Josh Harvey - It’s been a combination of things for Gregory this year. It started off with him needing a quick knee scope, which I think took a while for him to really get over and feel confident about. He got sick for about a week or two midseason that slowed him. Late in the year, he was battling an ankle injury. It’s also been reported he had a concussion, which didn’t allow him to play against Iowa in the last regular season game.
Gregory has been somewhat limited in bowl practices, getting healed up and focusing on school, but he practiced late last week and on Tuesday in San Diego. I would expect him to play, but I don’t know how many game reps he will get compared to his norm. They will be careful with him because of his potential professional future.
JH- I think Abdullah has great vision and really shows a knack for being able to cut back at the line of scrimmage. He’s very patient and waits for his holes to really open up. His story is an interesting one. He’s from SEC country, but hardly anybody in the conference would offer him as a running back – they all wanted him a DB. Nebraska gave him a shot in the backfield and he’s always had a chip on his shoulder because of his recruitment. He’s not the fastest running back. He’s not the hardest running. But, he just doesn’t have many blaring weaknesses.
RA - USC played its bowl game with an interim coach last season, but Clay Helton was planning to return to the team if he was retained. What is the situation with Barney Cotton, who will coach the Holiday Bowl and then move on to UNLV.
JH - For Barney, this has to be a dream come true, despite it being an awkward situation. The 58-year old played at Nebraska in the 70s, has coached here twice spanning over eight seasons, and has two sons currently on the team. It’s very likely this is it for him wearing a N on his hat/polo, but he can always say he was the head guy once at his alma mater. What better way to complete the dream than knocking off a team like USC?
RA - What has Kenny Bell meant to this team? Certainly the Huskers like to run the ball, but Bell seems like he can add another dimension to the offense.
JH- Bell since his sophomore year has really been a big leader on this team, but I think he took that role to another level in 2014. I feel bad for him. Yes, he broke the school’s all-time career receptions record this season, but he’s the type of guy that I think would have had about 60 catches or more at most schools. It’s not just because Nebraska runs the football often, his numbers were down because Bell very seldom saw consistent quarterback play from Tommy Armstrong.
The Colorado native can definitely bring another dimension to the offense. He’s got sneaky speed when healthy - which he should be after a month layoff. He’s the type of receiver who will make a couple tough first down catches moving the chains and then bust off a 40-yard reception by running past a slacking DB. Bell is just as talented as most No. 1 receivers in the Pac-12.
RA - How motivated do you expect Nebraska to be for this game?
JH - I think this team will be very motivated, for quite a few different reasons. First, it’s evident by their reactions on social media – most guys on this team loved Bo Pelini. They are going to want to send this staff out the right way, with another 10-win season. A win over a school like USC would likely turn a lot of people’s heads going into the offseason.
Even more important I think is the motivation by the underclassmen to not only make a positive step in the right direction heading into spring, but make a good first impression. It’s very rare guys get a live opportunity like this to impress an incoming coach. Mike Riley has been watching practices, but it’s just not the same as putting something on tape against an opponent. If a player feels he’s not getting enough game reps going into spring football, this is a chance to get a clean slate.
Ryan Abraham has been the publisher of USCFootball.com since 1996. You can follow him on Twitter at @InsideTroy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .