Nebraska spring questions: Running backs

Big Red Report looks at four questions entering spring football at the running back spot.

RUNNING BACKS

(Scholarship RBs/FBs on the roster)

1.) Imani Cross – senior
2.) Terrell Newby - sophomore
3.) Adam Taylor - redshirt sophomore
4.) Mikale Wilbon – redshirt freshman

1.) Andy Janovich – senior


How will the position compare in years past?

New Nebraska head coach Mike Riley might be getting advice that moving the chains in the air doesn’t work well at Nebraska, but there is no doubt the passing game will have a stronger presence in years to come. But how much in 2015?

Under former offensive coordinator Tim Beck, Nebraska consistently ranked in the top 20 in rushing yards and have recruited to be that style of team. You can’t change overnight. Riley and new offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf will have to adjust their possible desired offense, meaning the running backs might be getting close to the same amount of work they have in years past.

Of course, the Huskers will have to figure out how to replace All-American Ameer Abdullah, one of the program’s best at the position ever.

"I know we have good players here. I got to see some of them in the Holiday Bowl and I got to look at some game film,” said Nebraska running back coach Reggie Davis.

“We have some good guys here; we will be fine.” - Nebraska RB coach Reggie Davis

While Cross (pictured), Taylor, and Newby will be talked about below, the wildcard in the bunch might be redshirt freshman Mikale Wilbon (5-8, 190), who was the Huskers’ top scout team running back last fall and reminds people of Abdullah. The former Illinois prep’s recruitment was dampened after getting injured both his junior and senior year, where he combined for 2,000 yards in ten games.


Will the senior get the biggest workload?

Is Cross finally the guy? After getting work behind NFL running back Rex Burkhead and future NFL draft pick Ameer Abdullah, Cross enters his senior year with the most experience on the roster at his position. Over the course of his career, he’s carried the ball 215 times for 1,155 yards and 22 touchdowns. If he had been at a lot of other schools, he might have double his current production.

Cross will have plenty of talent nipping at his heels in March and April. While he might be the most experienced, his body type might not lend itself to being the best option as an every down back. In 2014, Cross averaged 5.1 yards per carry, but only had two runs over 20+ yards.

What also might be interesting to see is how Cross body wise reports to spring workouts. At one point the senior tried to slim down, cutting weight in hopes it would improve his speed. He abandoned the plan last fall, going back to his natural weight of around 230 pounds, becoming the bruiser style back once again.


Is sophomore Adam Taylor healthy?

Taylor (6-2, 210), the talk of last year’s spring, should be back after breaking his leg severely last fall. He was the Huskers’ scout team offensive MVP in 2013, and showed the media he’s an every-down type of back when he gets the chance. But just how healthy is he? Just because he’s been cleared, doesn’t mean he will be the same type of running back he was pre-injury.

If he is completely 100 percent back from injury, don’t be surprised if he lands the job – maybe not in the spring but in the fall.

At Katy high school in Texas 5A, Taylor ran for 2,754 yards and 45 touchdowns in 16 games his senior year.

He wasn't going to dethrone Abdullah last year, which means he might have only been the third or fourth back in the mix last season if he had not broke his leg. He brings a different style to the position than Newby or Cross - a more complete style.


Can Terrell Newby run between the tackles?

The California prep hasn’t exactly had the career many would have expected up to this point, but partly due to being behind Abdullah. In two seasons, the former Scout.com four-star prospect has recorded 121 carries for 595 yards and seven touchdowns.

Newby (5-10, 200) is lightning in a bottle. He might only get a yard four to five carries in a row, but has the ability to break a 20+ run every time he gets a touch. He just needs more carries.

The junior could help himself this spring if he shows the coaching staff he’s got the ability to run between the tackles. While his speed is always going to lend itself to runs on the outside, he has to show he can be a chain mover up the middle.


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