When Big Red Report listed out top ten running backs in Nebraska history shortly before spring practices, Rex Burkhead's name was absent from the list. It was out decision to reevaluate active players once their career was over. By this time next year, the list will have to be updated.
Burkhead will enter his final season 12th all-time on the Nebraska career rushing yards list. As a junior he racked up 1,357 yards, more than doubling his totals from his freshman and sophomore season.
If Burkhead were to match his rushing totals from 2011 this fall, he would rank second all-time on the Nebraska career rushing list only behind Mike Rozier, and in front of greats like Ahman Green, Roy Helu Jr., Calvin Jones, I.M. Hipp, and Lawrence Phillips.
But as the Nebraska coaching staff tries to limit the wear and tear Burkhead faced last year, should Husker fans really expect to see another 284 carry season?
It's not likely.
"It's our job to put the ball in their hands more than a year ago," Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said regarding sophomore running backs Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green in the spring. "They can be a force for our team."
A "force" means a dedicated part of the offensive game plan, which means less carries for Burkhead.
The Plano high school product (TX) rushed for 4.8 yards per carry in 2011, down from 5.5 during his sophomore season. If Burkhead could get back to a 5.5 yards per carry mark, he would need 37 less carries in 2012 to hit 1,357 yards. Over a course of a season, that would be almost three less carries a game.
But what if Burkhead took his yard per carry average to the 6.0 to 6.5 mark, comparing to a running back like Montee Ball from Wisconsin. Burkhead would need 226 carries at 6.0 or 208 at 6.5 to reach 1,357 yards.
Burkhead officially needs just 1,227 yards for second all-time on the Nebraska career rushing yards list. Most expect his stat line to drop off in 2012 as Abdullah and Green get more involved, but a fresher Burkhead could mean better averages.
Second on the list is not out of the question, even as other backs get involved.