With the graduation of Terrell Newby, there is no clear leader at the I-back position for Nebraska going into the 2017 season, though there are several candidates that will vie for playing time:
- Devine Ozibgo, Jr. (6’0” 230 lbs.)
- Tre Bryant, Soph. (5’11” 200 lbs.)
- Mikale Wilbon, Jr. (5’9” 195 lbs.)
- Adam Taylor, Sr. (6’2” 210 lbs.)
- Austin Rose, Jr. (6’1” 225 lbs.)
- Wyatt Mazour, So. (5’9” 195 lbs.)
- Noah Lambert, So. (6’0” 200 lbs.)
- Jaylin Bradley, Fr. (6’0” 180 lbs.)
Ozigbo and Bryant appear to be the leading candidates to play in 2017 going into spring practice. Ozigbo is a big powerful runner who rushed for 412 yards and five touchdowns in 2016. A midseason injury suffered at Indiana limited his production in the second half of the season; he missed four games and only carried the ball 13 times in two regular season games prior to the bowl game. For the season he averaged 4.2 yards per carry, compared to 5.5 yards per carry as a true freshman in 2015.
Bryant saw playing time early in the season because of his pass-protection skills, but his production waned once conference play began. In the first six Big Ten games, Bryant only carried the ball five times, gaining one yard for an anemic seven inches a carry average. He regained a lot a of confidence after catching a screen pass for a 35 yard touchdown against Maryland. With injuries to Ozigbo and Newby forcing them off the field, Bryant finished the season with 56 and 41 yard efforts in the final two games of the season. For the season, Bryant rushed for 172 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.0 yards per carry.
Mikale Wilbon continues to be an enigma who periodically shows flashes running the ball. Against Northwestern, he rushed six times for 55 yards, but only had nine carries the rest of the season, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Most of Wilbon’s playing time came in passing situations, though, with four catches for 34 yards. People may remember him more for the four dropped passes this season, including one against Oregon that actually was ruled a fumbled lateral.
Senior Adam Taylor is still listed on the roster, though he didn’t play in the second half of last season. After redshirting in 2013, Taylor missed the 2014 season with a leg injury. In 2015, Taylor returned but only saw action on special teams. The once touted four-star recruit held offers from Alabama, Florida State and Oklahoma before choosing Nebraska, but now seems to be an afterthought on Nebraska’s depth chart.
Austin Rose, Wyatt Mazour and Noah Lambert all are walkons. Jaylin Bradley finally got the scores he needed in January, and promptly accepted a scholarship offer minutes after it was offered by Nebraska. His numbers as a senior speak for themselves: over 2900 yards and FIFTY touchdowns. The only question revolving around Bradley is his grades. If he finishes the school year strong, he could set himself up for playing time this fall.
What’s the first guess at a depth chart? Ozigbo and Bryant sharing the majority of snaps, with Wilbon on the field occasionally as a pass receiver. If Wilbon improves his pass protection, he could see more snaps as many think he has the potential to be the best ball carrier on the roster.
And with no incumbent at the top of the I-back list, Bradley could conceivably find a path to playing time this season.
- Luke McNitt, Sr. (6’2” 240 lbs.)
- Harrison Jordan, Sr. (5’10” 230 lbs.)
- Bo Kitrell, Jr. (6’1” 225 lbs.)
- Austin Hemphill, So. (6’0” 220 lbs.)
- Spencer Jordan, RFr. (6’2” 215 lbs.)
- Ben Miles, Fr. (6’1” 210 lbs.)
If you were expecting Andy Janovich’s 2015 season to begin a new renaissance for Nebraska fullbacks, 2016 was a splash of cold water to the face. Janovich’s 42 carries for 265 yards dropped to just two carries for four yards by Luke McNitt last season. Expecting much more than that probably isn’t in the cards, unless incoming freshman Ben Miles makes a bid for playing time when he arrives this summer. For now, it looks like the fullback is going to be more of a blocker than a ball carrier.