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Nebraska Football Position Breakdown: Running Backs

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What do the Huskers have at running back for 2019? Not much beyond potential.

Bethune Cookman v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

If I had to pick one word to describe 2019 Nebraska football at the running back position it would be “bare”. That counters the word “potential” most used to describe a position when there is little returning productivity. It’s typical to talk about how good players can be when they haven’t seen the field. It represents hope for future.

Gone:

Devine Ozigbo

“Ziggy” became a fan favorite in 2018 as Nebraska fans searched for answers after a dismal start to the season. Ozigbo broke through against Purdue, rushing for 170 yards, and while the team lost, it was apparent he was doing his damnedest to bring them a win. He went on to rush for 1,082 yards last season, the first Nebraska player to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season since Ameer Abdullah in 2014.

Ziggy was a joy to watch last season and is arguably the most difficult player to replace in 2019.

Greg Bell (kinda)

I’m only mentioning Bell here because he had statistics in 2018. He was the fourth leading rusher last season, racking up 173 on 35 carries for a 4.9 yard per carry average. Bell left the team only a few months after he arrived, stating he “wasn’t being utilized to his full potential.” This was after he’d been replaced by our beloved Ziggy as the starting running back.

Mikale Wilbon

Wilbon never made it to the field much in 2018, rushing only four times for seven yards.

Austin Rose

Rose came to Nebraska as a walk-on in 2013. He stayed through three coaches, mostly playing on special teams. He finished his running back career at Nebraska with a single carry for seven yards last year against Illinois. It takes a lot of guts and hard work to stay like that. That’s why he’s mentioned here.

Returning:

Maurice Washington (maybe?)

Washington is Nebraska’s leading returning rusher at the running back position. Washington had 77 carries for 455 yards for a 5.91 yard per carry average. Add to that 24 receptions for 221 yards and you’re looking at a decently productive first season.

Unfortunately, Mr. Washington is in trouble with the law in California. The story, the timeline, and the implications are a mess. It is anyone’s guess whether Washington will be back on the field in 2019. If I had to guess, I’d say no.

Wyatt Mazour

Mazour walked-on at Nebraska in 2015 and became one of three walk-ons to earn a scholarship from Scott Frost at the beginning of last season. He spent most of 2018 on special teams, but finally got his first carries on his career in the blowout at Michigan and scored Nebraska’s only touchdown in that game. He got more carries against Bethune-Cookman, and then one carry against Illinois. He finished the season with 11 carries for 76 yards for a 6.91 yard per carry average and one touchdown. He also had one reception for 21 yards.

Mazour represents depth at this position, but also a wild card. He fit into the hybrid wide receiver/running back position known as “Duck R”, and he’s one of those guys who can add some carries throughout the season if other running backs need relief.

Miles Jones

Jones played in one game last season against Bethune-Cookman. He had one pass for 21 yards and one carry for five yards. Unfortunately his one carry resulted in a season-ending injury. The good news is he preserved his redshirt. Jones was another guy who played the “Duck R” and despite him not seeing the field much in 2018, figures as another player whose potential has yet to be met.

Jaylin Bradley

Bradley didn’t play in 2018. In 2017, he played in seven games as a true freshman. He had 24 carries for 93 yards and was second in kickoff returns with six for 124 yards. Bradley is another wildcard guy in 2018.

Brody Belt

Belt is a walk-on from Omaha Millard West who redshirted in 2018.

Austin Hemphill

Hemphill is a walk-on from Gretna, originally at the fullback position. He’s moved to running back as the fullback position is outdated, out-moded, obsolete everywhere and no longer exists except in the minds of people who are stuck in the past. Hemphill has yet to appear in a game. He is a senior.

Newcomers

Dedrick Mills

This is the dude most of us expect to replace our beloved Devine Ozigbo. Regarded as the nation’s #1 JUCO running back transfer, coming from Garden City CC in Kansas. Before that he played as a true freshman at Georgia Tech. He was the Yellow Jackets’ leading rusher with 771 yards, 5.1 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns.

Mills has some size to him, 5’11” and 215 pounds. Nebraska will need him to be that guy who can bruise for yardage inside.

If you took “hope” and “potential” and put them together, they would equal “Dedrick Mills” as he is THE guy at THE position with the chance to make the most impact in 2019.

Rahmir Johnson

Johnson comes to Nebraska out of Oradell, New Jersey. The key with Johnson is speed, as included on his bio is “10.75 in the 100-meter dash and 21.46 in the 200-meter dash.” Johnson is listed as a running back, but may be moving around in the backfield, in the slot, or at running back.

Ronald Thompkins

Here’s what our recruiting guy Uglydog had to say about Thompkins back in June:

Thompkins was committed to Florida State previously, but backed off that commitment last September. His offer sheet included Alabama, LSU, Penn State, USC, and various other elite programs.

That’s quite the offer sheet. Unfortunately, Thompkins fell off the radar for many teams when he tore his ACL for the second time in two seasons. Nebraska stood by him, and we’ll see what he can do as a Husker.

Wandale Robinson

Does Wandale belong here? Hmmm..... well, he didn’t make it into the wide receiver breakdown. And he’s not officially on the roster. And he’s going to be a hybrid guy, not really a running back. I am including him here so you can remember him (as if you’d forget) and include him in the discussion.

Walk-Ons

Zach Weinmaster

The younger brother of linebacker Jacob Weinmaster, another hybrid guy who’s from Colorado.

Cooper Jewett

From Elkhorn South.

Summary - Running Back Position

Is this cupboard really bare?

Well... no. Opening the cupboard door, what we find is a bunch of unlabeled cans. Pull one out, shake it around, and you might pretend you know what’s in there. Truth - you don’t know until you open it and pour it out into a pan on the stove.

Diced tomatoes? What the hell am I going to do with that? Split pea with ham? Why is this in here? Chunky beef with country vegetables? Kinda salty, but it’ll make a full meal.

The good thing is there are a lot of options, at least for guys who are going to carry the load as “Frost hybrid Duck-R” players. There seems to be only one bruiser, Dedrick Mills. We have an interesting mix of newcomers. You have a walk-on from Colorado who looks like he could have had a scholarship to many other schools. You have an explosive guy who’s had two knee injuries who could recover and be a factor.

“Run The Ball” Nebraska traditionalists are going to look at this offense and feel conflict all the way through. Third and two without a fullback and a heavy set might kill more of them in 2019. Those who love the WING-ZING-POW! of Frost’s offense have to look at these newcomers and say “I don’t know WTF is going to happen, but it’s going to be kick-ass exciting!”

And the season is still a long ways away.