Nobody ever questioned the ability of one, Cory Ross. Elusive, quick on his first step and able to cut against the grain, Ross offered Nebraska potentially the kind of back they haven't seen since Derek Brown.
What was questioned for a time though was his dedication. Not necessarily to playing the game, but to himself and his body more than anything. For a time, Ross ballooned beyond 200 lbs. and for a back that stands 5'8" with a bit of a reach to get there, the weight had to be a factor.
Possibly as lean as he has been since his arrival on the campus of Nebraska, Ross has felt like things have turned the corner. His cuts, burst and speed, Ross says he's feeling like he's starting to come into his own. "I'm feeling good." Ross stated. "We have a new strength and conditioning coach we've done some stuff that I don't think I've ever done."
"I'm feeling quicker and the way the offense is set, it's set for the cut-back and for us to make all reads and really, there's no bad plays when you are running the ball and that makes you a better player."
The offense is what is getting all the attention right now, no question about it. The new style, a new way of doing things, most eyes have been focused on the quarterback. One thing that might have been overlooked isn't just the QB to WR combinations, but the running back would now find their own niche' in this new way of doing things, not as a runner so much, but as a receiver.
Last year's promise of more throws to the running backs has turned into this year's guarantee and Ross said of the new role, where teams had to think of a back getting the ball thrown to them, now it's just a matter of when. "Last year it was a threat and this year, it's a read." Ross said of running backs catching balls out of the backfield. "We had routes last year, but it was never called or a point to make to hit us out there, but now we can get the ball anytime so be ready."
"Ready" is something Ross certainly is. Having played the wideout position in high school and even leading the state of Colorado in interceptions his junior year with 8, hands aren't the question. Rather, it's opportunities.
"It (the offense) opens up a whole lot of things." Ross stated. "As you learn new terminology and new stuff, you can actually see it happening and see what he (Callahan) wants to have happen in that play."
"It's going to be great for us and it's fun to learn also."
About a million times people have referred to this year as yet another "new era" for Nebraska football. For some players, it's new opportunities. For Cory Ross, it's just another new year, but a year where he can take the glimpses of what he can do and try for a season to remember.
It's not a new era, rather a new beginning. "I'm excited about the future." Ross stated. "I have 100 percent confidence that our O-line is going to be good and it will just come down to what we can do with our opportunities."
"I can't wait."
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619