The Gophers will have two key linebackers missing for the start of Saturday’s game at Nebraska, which could mean an expanded role for Blake Cashman, a sophomore walk-on from Eden Prairie.

Junior Cody Poock is out for the season with a shoulder injury, and senior Nick Rallis has to miss the first half after a targeting penalty on him late in last week’s win over Purdue.

Cashman finished the Purdue game with career highs in tackles (five), tackles for a loss (three) and sacks (two).

“If my name’s called, I’ll be ready,” Cashman said.

Cashman has been a standout on special teams, with 15 total tackles this season. The Gophers recruited him as a safety after he made 72 tackles for Eden Prairie’s 2014 Class 6A state title team. He converted to linebacker this spring and added 15 pounds.

But at about 225 pounds, he remains undersized for a linebacker in run situations. Coach Tracy Claeys said freshman Thomas Barber (240 pounds) will get that role.

“The spread and three- or four-receivers stuff is what Cash has done awfully well in,” Claeys said. “I don’t know that the two-back [offense] is his cup of tea.

“We’ll have to make sure that we match personnel on that instead of adding things to his plate. Sometimes you keep adding and pretty soon it turns into subtraction and it slows kids down.”

Joe Christensen