Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault entered camp this summer facing difficult odds. Though the two incoming freshmen were strong high school running backs, it’s difficult to play in your freshman year at NU—with a staff that values experience.
Even in the sad 31-24 loss to Cal, the future was somewhat bright. It’s not even an exaggeration: two young running backs made an immediate impact against a power conference team.
Jackson and Vault each played important roles Saturday, combining for 13 carries, 65 yards, and a Jackson score late in the game. Each also had a reception.
Most impressive: Fitzgerald did not restrict their roles. Many analysts and media members expected both to be featured mainly out of the slot. Vault entered projected to be someone who can excel in any spot.
But both looked as comfortable — if not more comfortable — than starting tailback Treyvon Green. They secured the ball, made nifty moves and fought for extra yardage.
“[Justin]’s a very dynamic back,” Pat Fitzgerald said after the game.
“Justin Jackson can play,” Tony Jones added.
In all seriousness, the tone changed this season, with two freshmen ready immediately. Regardless of outcome, the Wildcats are recruiting well enough to accommodate true freshmen. Heck, even 2015 St. Louis product John Moten could join the backfield next season.
But in another tough one, there was some hope. With four years of Vault and Jackson, the Wildcats can look to a strong backfield in later seasons.