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Nebraska Football 2023 Spring Preview: The Running Backs

Some other position groups might have something to say about it, but the running back position might be the strongest position group on the team.

NCAA Football: North Dakota at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Position Coach: E.J. Barthel

This is the fourth season that E.J. Barthel has spent on a Matt Rhule Staff. He was previously with Rhule at the Carolina Panthers and at Temple.

He alsohas pervious Big Ten experience at Rutgers and Penn State and coached two seasons in the NFL. This is his 10th season of coaching. He started as the running backs coach at UConn.

Who Makes Up the Running Back Room?

Anthony Grant, Senior from Buford, GA
Last Season: 218 carries for 915 rushing yards, six touchdowns while averaging 76.3 yards per game. Caught 18 passes for 104 yards. Was Honorable-Mention All-Big Ten.

Rahmir Johnson, Junior from Oradell, N.J.
Last Season: Played in 10 games, mostly on special teams, and rushed for 85 yards on 19 carries while catching one pass for seven yards.

Emmett Johnson, Redshirt Freshman from Minneapolis, MN

Gabe Ervin Jr., Sophomore from Buford, GA
Last Season: Still is the only true freshman running back to start the first game of a season. In 2021 he started the first four games before getting injured. In 2022 he only played in 8 games. Rushed for 94 yards on 20 carries. Missed four games due to injuries.

Ajay Allen, Redshirt Freshman from Monroe, LA
Last Season: Played in the first four games as a true freshman before getting injured and sat for the rest of the season. He carried 33 times for 190 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

Matthrew Schuster, Sophomore from Ashland, NE

Trevin Luben, Sophomore from Wahoo, NE

Trevor Ruth, Reshirt Freshman from Seward, NE

Who Will Be Joining At A Later Time?

Cole Ballard, walk-on Freshman from Elkhorn, NE

Kwinten Ives, Freshman from Beneverly, NJ - 6’3” 180 lb three star recruit

Gage Wager, walk-on Freshman from Arlington, TX, son of Nebraska Tight Ends coach Bob Wager

Thoughts on the Running Backs for Spring Football

There is a lot to shake out over the spring but I sure hope that this group of running backs, specifically Anthony Grant, Gabe Ervin Jr. and Ajay Allen, stick it out to the fall and don’t look for greener pastures. While Rahmir Johnson is listed as a running back he has been running with the wide receives, and specifically, the slot position.

I’m willing to hear other nominations but I think the running back room is the strong position group on the team.

In fact, if Anthony Grant, Gabe Ervin Jr. and Ajay Allen make it to the fall then I think it could be one of the best position groups in the Big Ten West if not the entire conference in terms of depth, experience and talent.

The one player coach Rhule appears to specifically like is Gabe Ervin Jr. who he has mentioned several times as being an impressive athlete. He’s one of the fastest players on the team and is 6’0” 215 lbs. He hopes Ervin could be the knock out punch in the fourth quarter to put games away in the fall.

This staff has mentioned that they want to run the ball. That’s music to the ears of Nebraska fans. However, will they be able to do it behind the offensive line?

We might learn a little bit this spring but it will be fall when we actually find out.