Lincoln, NE – Over the next several days, Big Red Report will feature a series of positional breakdowns for Nebraska, as the Huskers great ready for spring football.
Key Losses: Tyler Legate
Contenders: Burkhead, Abdullah, Green
Breakdown: Rex Burkhead carried the ball 284 times last season, to put that into perspective, it was two shy of the school record 286 Lawrence Phillips in 1994. What's funny about the amount of work Burkhead saw was one of the biggest question marks coming into last season was if he had what it took to be a regular featured back – Burkhead answered those critics.
But, the coaching staff won't want to let the senior see that many carries again. At times, he looked gassed and was held out of practices. Expect an effort to keep the Texas native fresh, by slowing taking away a portion of his carries and giving them to sophomore Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah. The two combined for 66 carries last year as freshman, and should be trusted more this season.
Abdullah impressed Nebraska fans with his big play ability on kick returns, showing a knack for finding the hole. It's the hope he can now translate that onto the offensive side of the football. Green was one of the nation's best running backs coming out of high school in 2011 (No. 6 in the country), racking up over 1,700 yards at Texas 5A football. The talent is there by the duo to bring a change up to the offense. Both will just need to show they can be trusted with the football during the spring – especially before Georgia freshman Imani Cross gets here in the fall.
At fullback, the job appears to be Mike Marrow's to have. After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules (Alabama to Eastern Michigan to Nebraska) , the junior should have had plenty of time to digest the playbook and hit the weight room. Marrow was regarded as one of the top fullback prospects in the country following his prep career at Central Catholic High in Holland, Ohio. As a senior, he rushed for 893 yards and 11 touchdowns. But, to be rewarded with carries at Nebraska, Marrow will need to show an ability to open up things for Burkhead. If Marrow can be that bowling ball, he should see more carries than Tyler Legate did last season.
Outlook: There isn't a stronger position on the offense side of the football, possibly even the team as the Huskers enter spring practices. Rex Burkhead should be a Heisman candidate in the fall, which means he will get the majority of the load again, but with talented players like Green and Abdullah now experienced, the running back position is more than deep.