Position Preview – Running Backs
Position Coach – Ryan Held
This is Coach Held’s second year at Nebraska and we should all devote our powerful thoughts and prayers to seeing that he remains here as long as Coach Frost. He does have an extensive small and junior college head coaching resume including a year at Peru St when he was the youngest HC in the country at age 26.
His forte is recruiting which Rivals recognized by selecting him as one of the Top 25 Recruiters of the Year in both 2018 & 2019. It may sound like an odd request, but I want to see a video of him working a home. He looks like just a normal guy, but by multiple accounts, he just lights and fires up the room. Please never leave Lincoln.
As a coach, his record is just as impressive. After three years in which Devine Ozigbo averaged 4.2 YPC, a senior season under Held resulted in 1082 yards and 7.0 YPC. The previous season at UCF, Adrian Killins went for 790 & 6.4. Both were good for Top 15 in the nation.
Way Way Too Early RB Depth Chart:
A trend I’m interested in watching this season is if Nebraska will spread carries around like they did at UCF in 2016-17. Including the QB’s, they had four and five runners respectively who had 40 or more carries each season. Last year for the Huskers, it was just Ozigbo, Martinez and Washington.
Keep in mind UCF’s rushing yards under Frost went from 1835 in 2016 to almost 2600 in 2017 and that Oregon was consistently in the top 5 in the country in rushing offense.
1) Dedrick Mills – Jr - 2016 Georgia Tech - 152 carries 771 yards/ 12 TDs /5.1 YPC /2 Receptions 13 yds/ 1 TD
Mills is my odds-on favorite to turn into the rock-toting lead back. He has the size and durability Frost seems to crave in his top guy and he has proven experience at the D1 level where he was a freshman All-American at Georgia Tech.
2) Maurice Washington – So - 77 - 480 yds/ 3 TDs/ 5.9 YPC/ 24 rec -221 yds/ 1 TD/ 9.2 YPC
The elephant in the room is still whether Washington will play, be suspended, etc. No long discussion here, but in my opinion, the decision has already been made to keep him and they’re just trying to get a read on the court case in deciding what his suspension will be. Once fully back in the rotation, he will be given many touches but doesn’t look to have the size to be the every down back yet.
3) Rahmir Johnson – Fr – 4-star Rivals
- OR - Ronald Thompkins – Fr – 3-star Rivals
- OR - Wyatt Mazour – Sr – 11-81 yds/ 1 TD/ 6.9 YPC/ 1 rec-21 yds/ 21.0 YPC
It wouldn’t surprise me to see 75- 100+ carries out of this group. Per the above, UCF under Frost would bring fresh speed off the bench to run at defenses getting a little out of breath chasing the spread all over the field. Thompkins and Johnson both have that and Mazour has made the most of his limited carries in live action.
Thompkins is recovering from the second of two knee injuries suffered in high school, but his rehab should be complete. Despite the injuries, his offer list included, well, just about everyone. As far as Johnson, the coaches have made no secret of their desire to get him on the field immediately.
If either or both of Johnson and Thompkins redshirts after playing 4 games, that number of course goes down.
Receivers Lining Up At RB:
- Wandale Robinson
- Miles Jones
Technically both are receivers but we should see some of Jones and lots of Wandale popping into the backfield this year. I don’t know about anyone else, but Rondale Moore’s assertion that Wandale is the real deal carries some weight with me.
Got Some Play in the Spring, Not Going To See The Field Much:
- Jaylin Bradley – judging from coach’s comments and failure to shine in the spring, it doesn’t look to be working out for him
- Moses Bryant
- Brody Belt – Despite some spring game touches, it’s tough to see either of these two cracking the top five
Right now, there’s an uneasy feeling around the position due to inexperience (after Adrian Martinez, the top returning carriers are Washington with 77 and Mazour with 11) and the Washington situation. However, since this is the pre-season and, BY GOD, we should all be on the hype train, I choose to focus on the potential.
Much like Ozigbo last season, Mills is going to grab the majority of carries in a we-backs situation and roll for 900-1100 yards and kick it off by dough-popping some South Alabamas and rat-turd Colorado Buffs on their sorry asses. Comments are already coming out of early practices that he brings it every minute and is NOT here to fuck around. It’s comments like those that give me sports wood. There hasn’t been much of that the last few years.
Washington may miss a game or two, but barring a hard left turn in the legal proceedings, he will be out there doing his thing. The big question is how far is he behind where he should be in conditioning and weight gain while dealing with the legal issues?
Thompkins and Johnson will find themselves getting carries in the rotation if either or both show they are ready to contribute. Throw an occasional Wandale in there as well and a combination of those three subbing in at full blast could make life miserable for tired defenses.
So yes – the position is light on experience but it’s extremely heavy on potential. If the offensive line steps it up in combination with group starting to taste their potential, they could end up being the most dangerous position group on the field.
And how much more dangerous does Adrian Martinez become if the RB’s can combine for 1500-1700 yards?
Strap in, chaps, this is not going to be boring.