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Nebraska Spring Review: The Running Backs

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A little experience coming back, a few new faces with promise, a pile of walk-ons who don’t look half-bad - hey, we’d all love having Braelon Allen back, but this isn’t so bad.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Running Back session of the Corn Nation Spring Review where if we believe in anything in Nebraska anymore it’s -

(Altogether now. With Feeling)

RUN THE DAMN BALL!!!

Now that we’re all fired up, I must break it to you we did not bring in Casey Thompson and Mark Whipple to just RUN THE DAMN BALL. Go ahead and take a moment.

…..

As Rosey Grier once sang, it’s alright to cry.

But before you begin weeping uncontrollably, let it also be said that Anthony Grant, the #1 ranked JC recruit did not select Nebraska, as neither did Ajay Allen renege on his TCU commitment to be a Husker because they were both intrigued by the notions of pass blocking and catching screens all damn day.

Nebraska will run the ball and they will do it with the deepest RB room since the days of Ameer, Roy and Sexy Rexy (which is more of a statement about running back rooms since then). Do they have that kind of overall talent lined up? Well, not likely, but this feels light years from last year’s RB battle which was a 5-deep of no one who’d ever had any meaningful carries.

Three of the top four now have big game experience and the fourth ended up making the biggest play of the Spring Game in our full pads touch football half. Alright when I read it now, the Ameer, Roy, Rex comparison is way too soon, but the talent this year at least has more than 12 total carries behind it. Dammit, let me hope.

So anyway, I watched how the spring played out and realize we’re nowhere close to naming a starter or even the top 2-3 members of a committee. The easy way out? I’ve divided the room into three groups. In honor of Trey Palmer and Tommi Hill talking about “playing like dogs” this spring, the first group is the Top Dogs. That’s the end of the fun - let’s just call the next two the Middle Crew and the Walk-On/Longshots.

The Middle Crew are either just short of the top group, full of talent but having little to no experience yet, or, in the case of Brody Belt, separated from the group below but not truly in contention to break into the top group.

The Walk-On/Longshots group is self-explanatory, but I tried to throw in their high school stats as a way of letting you know the level of accomplishment with which our preferred walk-ons arrive. Our walk-ons are again the best of the best. If you disagree, fight me. After I nap. Here we go:


TOP DOGS

Rahmir Johnson - Soph - Thanks to Covid, Rahmir can challenge Buster Rhymes for well, Buster Rhymes notoriety. He is now in the mix to potentially enjoy a 7-9 year college football career upon entering his 4th year as a sophomore. Jokes aside, Rahmir actually had snagged the starting job for the Oklahoma game before Gabe Ervin’s injury and held onto it until his own unfortunate one. The long & short of it is that Rahmir is the returning starter and was reaching a place where he could run inside, outside and beat LB’s downfield while hauling in deep throws. Barring injury, he will be in the mix from 2022 thru 2029 (jk).

Michigan v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Anthony Grant - Jr - Grant’s road to Lincoln was a long one. From HS football in Buford, GA, he committed to Florida State and played every game in 2018 primarily on special teams returning kicks & then redshirting before transferring to New Mexico Military Institute JC. After a season shortened by Covid, Grant exploded in 2021 as the NJCAA Offensive POY. NMMI won the JC national title behind his 590 rushing yards & 6 TD’s in the two playoff games including 26 carries for 398 yards in the semis. His 60 yard TD run was the offensive highlight of the Spring Game.


Jacquez Yant - Soph - Yant came to Nebraska from Amos P Godby HS in Florida and carried 47 times for 294 yards and a touchdown in 2021. He received a good deal of playing time even if it wasn’t consistent. For a large back, he had success running outside the tackles with surprising speed and a knack for big plays. A dedication to diet and conditioning has landed him in the top group coming out of spring. One of the key factors as he put it was giving up Cane’s chicken tenders. Folks, a man with that level of sacrifice is thinking championship.

Purdue v Nebraska
“Move b**ch! Get out da way!”
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

MIDDLE CREW

Gabe Ervin - RS Fr - Ervin, from Buford HS in Georgia actually earned the starting job as a true freshman, started 2 of the first 4 games and seemed to be hitting his stride in the Oklahoma game before suffering a season-ending knee injury. I list him in the second tier only because of the uncertainty surrounding the injury. If he comes back at full speed, he almost certainly jumps back up with the group above.

Nebraska v Oklahoma Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images


Markese Stepp - Jr - Stepp came to Lincoln via the transfer portal amid a good deal of hype based on his recruiting rankings and early play at Southern Cal before being injured. He appears to have fallen out of the top tier for now and to make matters worse appeared to be injured again after showing some burst in the Spring Game.


Ajay Allen - Fr - Allen is 4-star recruit from Nelville, LA HS and rushed for over 2200 yards his senior season with 34 TD’s. A recruiting service called On3 ranked him as the #5 HS RB in the country - I’ve never heard of the On3 recruiting service but I hope they’re right.


Emmett Johnson - Fr - Emmett comes to Lincoln as Minnesota’s reigning Mr. Football. He received almost every award possible in the state his senior season which was capped with over 2500 yards rushing and 42 TD’s. He played safety as well and was the offensive MVP of the state All-Star Game.


Brody Belt - Jr - Brody is included here despite being listed as a WR since the coaches went out of their way to talk him up this spring and he has earned carries each of the last 3 seasons. He has seen playing time in 27 games at RB, WR and on special teams. He received his degree in December of this year.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

WALK-ONS/LONGSHOTS

Cooper Jewett - Soph - Was 1st Team All-State for Elkhorn South his senior season while gaining over 1400 all-purpose yards and playing both ways. He worked his way into the RB rotation in 2020 and played in every game for the Huskers in 2021.


Beau Psencik - RS Fr - Gained over 3000 career yards for Lutheran South Academy in Houston, TX, earning 1st Team All-State, All-District and All Houston-Area honors his senior year.


Trevin Luben - RS Fr - At Wahoo, gained 4741 yards including 2136 and 41 TD’s his senior year while leading Wahoo to the Class C-1 title in which he carried 41 times for 268 yards and 5 TD’s. Trevin was the honorary captain of the All-State team.

(Author note: Original pic was John Bullock, incorrectly identified as Trevin Lubin by source photo. Credit to Zach Luben for the updated. - and far superior - photo.)
Zach Luben


Isaiah Harris - RS Fr - Rushed for 3468 yards at Millard South including 1859 yards his senior year while scoring 27 TD’s, averaging 11.3 ypc and was 1st Team All-State and All-Metro.


Matthew Schuster - RS Fr - Rushed for close to 3500 yards in his HS career between Cozad and Ashland-Greenwood and was All-State his senior year.