Head coach Mike Riley made noise shortly before Christmas when he told bowl reporters his goal for the Huskers’ offense in 2016 was to be at least third in the league in rushing.
After seeing Nebraska slip to No. 8 in the Big Ten this season, most fans dismissed the idea.
The Huskers’ bowl performance gave many of those doubters hope heading into the offseason, but there is still work to be done. UCLA ranked No. 88 in the country in stopping the run. Nebraska will have a much bigger challenge running against teams like Iowa, Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin – even if they stick with it.
After an entire season, sophomore to be Devine Ozigbo appears to be the front-runner for the Huskers’ starting job heading into the spring. After taking a committee approach much of the season, it was Ozigbo in the bowl game (21 carries for 87 yards) getting the bulk of the work.
“Devine, he’s always been a hard worker,” Langsdorf told the Omaha World Herald. “He hasn’t had a lot of carries, and we wanted to make sure we were fresh and fast against a fast defense.”
After blinking, Terrell Newby is a senior and will have a strong competition on his hands in the spring to stay relevant in the Nebraska backfield. While he was never considered to be the next Ameer Abdullah, Newby had a lot of hype – not only as a signee, but heading into 2015. While he started more times than any other Nebraska running back, he failed take hold of the position. An ankle injury late in the year didn’t help.
Sophomore Mikale Wilbon showed flashes of his potential in 2015 fall camp, but never translated his hype filled preseason into anything on the field. Whether it was his pass protection or he did something to fall out of the good graces of the Nebraska coaching staff, something needs to change for the running back in 2016 if he wants carries. When healthy and at his best, he might have more talent than any other back on the roster.
http://www.scout.com/college/football/recruiting/story/1605459-meet-frea... In recent years, Nebraska has had a history of getting freshman running backs involved and Missouri three-star Tre Bryant might not be any different next season. Similar to Ozigbo’s film last recruiting cycle, Bryant appears to undervalued. The Christian Brothers (St. Louis) running back was definitely featured in their offense, but might be better than his rating at first glance. Bryant finished 2015 with 1,145 yards and 21 touchdowns, averaging nearly 10.4 yards per carry. No, that is not a typo. He also had two receiving touchdowns and returned a kickoff 98-yards.
“Running back Tre Bryant is one of the elite share of athletes invited to Nike's The Opening Finals in Oregon during July,” said Scout.com national recruiting analyst Greg Powers. “He's a tremendous tester, posting one of the top SPARQ scores in the nation. He has the size, strength, power, explosion, and speed. A lot of that should carry over to the running back position, but he needs to develop a bit more patience and vision.
Rounding out the roster when it comes to scholarship running backs is former four-star back Adam Taylor, now a junior. Taylor has been a shadow of his former self after dealing with knee/leg injury that caused him to miss all of 2015. We don’t expect him to make a move up the depth chart.
Senior walk-ons Jordan Nelson and Graham Nabity hope to find a way to get carries, but both will probably be asked to make impacts in other aspects of the game.