Shandie Stewart, Stewart Photography

Devine Ozigbo is in a fight for time

Nebraska junior running back Devine Ozigbo talks about the competition.

After a strong rushing performance against UCLA in the 2015 Foster Farms Bowl and a 100-yard rushing effort to start 2016, many expected running back Devine Ozigbo to have a breakout season. 

But after his 103 yards against Fresno State in the Huskers’ opening game, Ozigbo only recorded 309 yards on the ground the rest of the season. An injury was a huge factor in his numbers dropping.

Now a junior and with one less runner in the stable (Terrell Newby), Ozigbo heads into spring football looking to assert himself in the running back competition. 

“This should be a good one,” said Ozigbo. “We have a lot of good backs returning like Mikale [Wilbon], Tre [Bryant], [Austin Rose] and [Adam Taylor]. We’re all in a fight for time so I think it’ll be a pretty good battle.

“That’s definitely going to be a key this spring and that’s something that all the coaches talk about. As soon as the season was over last year, we knew what we needed to do. We’ve been talking about and we will continue to talk about.“

Ozigbo came to Nebraska via Sachse high school, a program known for passing the football. His opportunities as a runner were limited, but he did become a solid pass-catcher in the process. Pass protection opportunities were limited as he was a threat out of the backfield. With the mobility of former quarterback Tommy Armstrong gone, Nebraska will have to find a way to protect their quarterbacks.  

“As long as we do our jobs, the quarterback should be fine. I don’t think it’s going to be much different,” said Ozigbo, who went on to talk about the offensive line. “I feel really good. We had really good seniors leave last year but I feel like the guys coming in are going to be able to step in. They’ve made a pretty big impact pretty early so we’ll see what they have. We also have a bunch of guys returning. So the line is going to be one of our strong points this season.

“They’re athletic, they can move. Like Jerald [Foster] and [Tanner] Farmer, we’re going to have to see what’s going on with center but I just like the way they move. [Nick] Gates is out there to push people which is a good thing for me.”

As far as the quarterbacks.

“I expect them [quarterbacks] to be leaders on this team. I feel like they command the field. We go out there and do little player throwing sessions. Both of them [Tanner Lee and Patrick O’Brien] take the bunch pretty confidently and they understand everybody respects them,” said Ozigbo. “So they have the team’s respect and the team behind them. So I expect them to be pretty good leaders and they are going to throw the rock because they do it every day.”

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