With Terrell Newby no longer a member of the Nebraska football team, the Huskers look to a handful of backs to make an impact early this spring to find momentum that will carry them forward.
As it stands, three names stick out as potential heirs to Newby’s throne. Obviously, head coach Mike Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf are looking for someone to separate from the pack. That may not be possible during spring practice, but the signs could show up for fall ball.
Let’s have a look at the contenders:
Devine Ozigbo: The team’s third-leading rusher in 2016 behind Newby and Tommy Armstrong, Jr., Ozgibo has been more of a bruiser in the style of former Husker Imani Cross so far during his career.
Now a junior, Ozigbo appears ready for another big leap like he had from his freshman year to his sophomore season. In only nine games as a freshman, he totaled 216 yards and had Newby, Cross and Armstrong in front of him. He upped the ante last season with a 446-yard campaign.
With pro-style quarterbacks taking snaps, running backs are going to get more chances to perform than when they did with Armstrong present. That could be a major boon for “Zig”.
Tre Bryant: If you’re watching the running back race intently, Bryant is going to want to be someone you frequently watch. Only a freshman last year, he managed 172 yards on 43 carries and showed some serious big-time speed.
If offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh’s line can bust some holes open, Bryant may be this year’s version of Newby. If he can deliver some hits of his own, he may sneak past Ozigbo on the depth chart. If that’s going to happen, Bryant is one of the aforementioned players that needs to get momentum going immediately this spring.
Mikale Wilbon: It seems like everyone’s been waiting for Wilbon’s game to click, but it simply hasn’t. That’s not to say that the Husker coaches haven’t tried to get him involved. He was on the receiving end of a few flare screens last season, but when it came down to standard running back work, he fell flat.
He’s only a junior, but he’s going to have to battle several other backs for even a bit of playing time. This could be a make or break period for Wilbon.
On the Outside Looking In:
Adam Taylor: Give Taylor credit, he looked like a player that could come in and do serious damage straight off of his recruitment. After a broken ankle in 2014, he just hasn’t been the same. That said, he’s been the ultimate team player working on special teams and doing everything he can to help the Huskers win.
Austin Rose: Every spring, we’re reminded that Rose is, in fact, on the roster. He has solid practices and usually shows a quality run or two in the Spring Game. Then he’s never heard from again.
Other Names in the Battle:
Noah Johnson, So.; Wyatt Mazour, So.; Sean Lambert, RFr
Luke McNitt: If you’re expecting much in the way of a battle here, it’ll be for who will back up McNitt. At this point, he’s just too experienced and too good for the guys behind him.
That said, a new challenger will be coming this fall in true freshman Ben Miles. That’s when we can start talking competition. In the meantime, enjoy an old school Husker fullback.
Other Names in the Battle:
Harrison Jordan, Sr.; Bo Kitrell, Jr.; Austin Hemphill, So.; Spencer Jordan, RFr.