Running back still a need for Nebraska

You've got three sophomores and one junior coming in – the last thing Nebraska needs is a running back. Right? It may appear that way, but where one running back can make or break a season, Nebraska can't depend that, that particular running back is already on the team. That means they have to find another, so while it looks good on the surface, the Huskers need another running back this year.

Two years ago Nebraska secured one of the best groups of running backs in recruiting. Cody Glenn, a star from the lone star state, who had run for almost 90 touchdowns during his prep career. Leon Jackson, a Pasco, Washington superstar, who averaged almost 12 yards per carry during his entire time at the high school level. And Marlon Lucky, the ultimate five star prospect, a young man who was thought not as an "IF" player, wondering about his potential, but a "WHEN" guy, people just waiting for the time he would blossom into stardom.


Add them to Brandon Jackson, a star in his own right out of Mississippi and a proven runner when healthy and then throw in the top junior college running back in the NJCAA Kenny Wilson, who is slated to arrive in the fall, Nebraska doesn't need another back.


If you played all of your games on paper, that might be true. If you simply looked at what they did at the prep level or junior college level, yeah, Nebraska is fine and there are plenty of other positions which are far more important when it comes to depth.

Brandon Jackson's career has been one
of battling injuries and not defenders.


But look at just what this entire group has proven from the I-back position and it isn't so clear cut.


Cody Glenn, the most prolific of this group last year, was used in short yardage situations, never being looked at as anything more than a bull in a china shop, and when he came onto the field, you almost knew the play that would be ran.


It wasn't until this spring that we got to see him and all of his versatility, Glenn showing that he could be not just a bullish type, but a finesse player, who could go outside of the tackles as effortlessly as he did in-between.


Marlon Lucky, for all of his high school publicity, never did see all that much time last year, with his continuing struggles in being able to pick up the blitz and block for Zac Taylor, was for most of the year, continuously under assault by defenders, due to a sorely lacking ability to pass block on the offensive line.


The one glimmer from Lucky was his 100-yard runback on a Kansas kickoff, which was ultimately called back.

Brandon Jackson was two years ago like Lucky, the seemingly best suited for kickoffs, as he took to the job in the latter parts of the season, taking a beleaguered unit and injecting some life with his exciting returns and more importantly, productive.


While each showed in their own way just what they could do for the team, to this day, none of them has proven on the field, during a season, that they will indeed be THE guy. A back that can like Cory Ross, give production even in the face of suspect blocking. They haven't shown that in a variety of down and  distance situations, they can run inside, outside and sometimes make a play when there is seemingly none that can be made.


Between all of those running backs combined, you come up with 191 carries for 702 yards and 10 touchdowns.


That's a 3.6 yard per carry average and 85 of those carries, along with six of the touchdowns were by Brandon Jackson during his freshman year, where he averaged almost five yards per carry.


Add that to the fact that Leon Jackson, having just moved back from safety, to his original position, having proven nothing on the field and the unproven commodity of Kenny Wilson coming from the junior college ranks, you literally have a group, that while talented and with loads of potential, is almost a complete unknown in regard as to what they are going to do this year.


 Can the staff sit back and just say to themselves that at least one or maybe two of these youngsters will indeed pan out and not go after a single back? And that's not even taking into account the very obvious possibility that health might be an issue with one or even more of them throughout their career.


Take the 1999 offensive line class for a clear example of not being able to count your chickens before they hatch:


Toniu Fonoti

Chris Loos

Dan Waldrop

John Dawson

Patrick Kabongo

Tim Green


Toniu Fonoti was a star, but Nebraska couldn't keep him his entire career, Fonoti opting to head out to the NFL after his junior year. Patrick Kabongo was moved eventually to the interior line on defense. Dan Waldrop started during the latter parts of his career, but his impact was  less than significant. Dawson contributed little and as to Loos and Green, injuries kept them from ever seeing the field.


Out of six players, two contributed to their original positions, only one significantly so and the rest either didn't pan out or couldn't play because they were hurt most of their career.


Glenn is the only proven tailback from
last year, but that doesn't mean anyone
really knows what he'll do this year.
That's hindsight telling us this, but nobody anticipates that kind of disappointment, because even if it's not great production, you would expect at least some, even if it's only serving as depth in a back up role.


Brandon Jackson is now on his second major rehab, both shoulders now having been operated on. Marlon Lucky has had a pretty mild spring overall when it comes to showing some of what made him one of the most coveted running backs in the country. And Glenn, while proving every bit of what he is capable, is just one guy and Jackson and Wilson haven't played an actual game at the position at this level of play.


With so many question marks, there's little doubt in my mind that Nebraska has to go out and get at least one legit running back and, of course, "legit" is a curious label, because out of every running back on this team, ALL  of them were considered that as they headed into collegiate play.


But that's what you need and even with their depth, there's still a number of kids who certainly have earned the label and at least for now, look at Nebraska as a realistic candidate for their future:


John Clay out of Racine , Wisconsin is a phenomenal specimen of a running back, out of the mold of an Adrian Peterson, possessing a great physical presence at 6 foot, 2 inches and 220 pounds, but he's got quickness as well. He's shown the ability to be able to run east and west, along with north and south, with equal adeptness.


Pflugerville , Texas ' Joseph Reese is another back, similar to Clay as he stands 6 foot, 2 inches, but is a little slighter, if you can call 190 pounds slight. He's been described as electric, part Eric Dickerson, part Eddie George, as he combines great lateral movement with great physicality, along with having 4.4 speed.


Brandon Saine , out of Piqua , Ohio , is another who stands above six foot (6-1), seemingly has all the quickness and straight-line speed, and like the aforementioned duo, he's got the attention to prove that he'll be another ultra-hot commodity this year at the position.


That seems to be the prototype of what this staff is looking for, because while they are going after other running backs like Hazelwood East's Thomas Merriweather, who certainly isn't similar to that trio in his physical presence, those offers are few and far between.


We do get back to the question, though, of just how hard Nebraska should go after another running back and how disappointing or even potentially dangerous it would be, if they didn't land one this year.


Yes, the secondary is going to be a serious need until there is a proven group of starters, along with at least some representation of depth. And with the entire starting defensive line gone after this up coming season, those positions are a must. In addition, this corps of linebackers looks great now, but after this year, Stewart Bradley will be gone and the very next year, all but two of this group with starting experience, will be heading into their last season.


But you can't ignore the running back position.

Joseph Reese could be one of Nebraska's
best shots at a top-tier RB this year.


It looks good on paper, but like Kansas State proves every year as they head into conference play, on paper prowess doesn't win games on the field. You can't assume that every one of these running backs will have that impact you so desire and so much so, you will be able to move them around and even find other positions for them to contribute.


Like any position on the field, the variables that follow it in respect to what a player will contribute, if they will stay healthy and if they can actually play at this level – all have to be taken into account. And unless you have a crystal ball telling you that Lucky, Glenn, both Jacksons and Kenny Wilson, will all do exactly what you thought they could, you can't expect that they will.


Recruiting is never about today, it's about tomorrow. And as we have seen from various classes and players, you don't know what that will bring.


There's certainly a lot of positions that need to be attended to, some obviously more important than running back. But the Huskers still need another running back this year. If you wait until the mid-point of the regular season to figure out just how hard you want to go after one, though, it could be too late to get the ones that you really want.


So, if Nebraska seems to be going after running back very hard this year, don't assume that it's because none of this current group will work out. This isn't about undermining what you have, but preparing for the fact that not all of them will do exactly what you thought they would do.


It's been said of recruiting, drafting and overall talent analysis that it is anything but an exact science. So, when in doubt, do what you know needs to be done.

Get another running back and if you have to , get two. This is one position where you can't depend on things to happen. You have to depend on anything but.

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