Nebraska Football: Illinois could be time to shine for Rahmir Johnson

Nebraska Cornhuskers running back Rahmir Johnson (14) runs against Illinois Fighting Illini (Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports)
Nebraska Cornhuskers running back Rahmir Johnson (14) runs against Illinois Fighting Illini (Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports) /

When it comes to Nebraska football mysteries and the 2022 season, there may not be any bigger ones than just what happened to Rahmir Johnson. There was quite a bit of talk in the summer and early fall leading up to the kickoff against Northwestern about how the New Jersey native had a position basically created for him to take advantage of his unique abilities.

Then the game against the Wildcats came and went, and Rahmir didn’t get a carry or a catch. The North Dakota game was the same story, then Georgia Southern. And so on, and so on. Entering the Huskers’ eighth game of the year, the running back/wideout or “wide back” has one carry for 17 yards and no catches.

There are few players on this team that have seen their roles shrink the way that Rahmir Johnson has, though it seems as if the Illinois game today could be his big “welcome back” moment.

During Thursday’s final press conference of the week, interim head coach Mickey Joseph talked specifically about the running back. He said that Rahmir has been dealing with some injury issues for most of the season but those appear to be behind him now. The coach added he’s “stacked good days of practice” in recent weeks.

Considering this is a coach who has made it clear that good days of practice are needed in order to get on the field, that seems like good news for Rahmir. He could end up being a secret weapon for the Nebraska football team.

Considering that Illinois’ defense is likely the best the Huskers will face off against all season, it’s unlikely that running straight ahead or dancing behind the line, as Anthony Grant likes to do, is going to work all that well. The Illini’s pass defense is also solid enough that there’s a pretty decent chance that Trey Palmer isn’t going to be running open the way he was against Purdue.

Getting Rahmir Johnson out into the flat, where he’s more likely to be covered by a linebacker, or even a defensive end might be quite a bit more effective. It might be something that he’s uniquely qualified to do. Best of all, it might be a wrinkle the Nebraska football coaches can break out that they haven’t really done before Saturday’s game.

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If the Huskers want to take down the 17th-ranked Illini, they’re going to need that kind of unexpected wrinkles to work. It could be the nearly forgotten player’s time to shine.