Nebraska running backs coach Ryan Held has a message this spring for anybody in his group that thinks he has a leg up in the race for the starting job.
“We’re at ground zero in the sense we haven’t played a game yet, so you’re going to have to show me what you can do, all right?” said Held, voice rising. “The starting running back that marches out to the field for the University of Nebraska against South Alabama, I have no idea who that’s going to be. It’s going to be done by the guy who’s consistent in practice and knows what he’s doing.
“That’s exciting. When you have a room full of running backs that’s very competitive, that’s what you want. That way, a guy doesn’t feel like, ‘I’ve got this deal made, I don’t have to worry about the guys behind me.'”
A logical pick as the favorite in the race to start the Aug. 31 opener is sophomore speedster Maurice Washington, the team’s leading returning rusher among running backs. He carried 77 times for 455 yards last season (5.9 per carry) while catching 24 passes for 221 yards (9.2). He scored four touchdowns, three via the run.
However, Nebraska head coach Scott Frost has said Washington will be a “limited participant” in spring practice as the player deals with an ongoing legal matter in California. He’s already missed at least one practice, March 11, to return to California. Meanwhile, sophomore Jaylin Bradley and senior walk-on Wyatt Mazour will try to take full advantage of every repetition with the top units when practice resumes Monday following spring break.
Another walk-on, Brody Belt, a redshirt freshman from Millard West, impressed in the early stages of spring drills, Held said.
This summer, an injection of talent will arrive with incoming freshmen Rahmir Johnson and Ronald Thompkins as well as junior college transfer Dedrick Mills — as long as Mills completes academic work at Garden City (Kansas) Community College.
In other words, Nebraska’s running back
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