This room has a lot to think about heading into 2022. Gone from the room are Sevion Morrison (Kansas), Marvin Scott III (Florida Atlantic), and Markese Stepp (unknown), who all hit the transfer portal. I remember Bill Belichick speaking and saying “everyone gets frustrated with free agency, but free agency, and graduation for you guys, isn’t always a bad thing.” That’s what I would equate the transfer portal in college to for 2022, and especially Nebraska. For the last 3 seasons, Nebraska has lost their best offensive player to the portal, the portal was looked at as a negative. But just like free agency in the NFL, the transfer portal is here to stay. So if you don’t find a way to make it a positive for you, well, you are going to get 3-9.
With all due respect to the players I just listed, the portal was a good thing for Nebraska here. We trimmed some fat, opened up 3 scholarships, and were able to bring in some guys to give more shots at playing time while moving on from guys we didn’t think were going to get it done here. While Nebraska didn’t bring any P5 guys in from the portal, it did allow them to bolster their roster elsewhere.
Let’s give props to the guy that took first team reps in the spring, and has the nod to start fall camp, Rahmir Johnson. Quite frankly, he deserves a ton of credit. I had Johnson on transfer watch before the 2021 season, things just weren’t working out, and many fans were pumped to see Stepp, Morrison, Ervin, Yant, and Scott III play. We felt we saw enough from Johnson to not be overly excited, and in typical Husker fandom we knew that the guys coming in were going to give us a better chance than who was on the roster. While an unfortunate injury thrust him into action, he made every bit of it count, and was our leading RB last year with 492 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns.
But be careful thinking this is Johnson’s job, i’ve seen a few practices this spring and one this fall, and Anthony Grant who is a transfer from New Mexico Military Institute has all the tools needed to make this interesting. There are even articles coming out about him being the #1 KO returner and running with the 1s on offense. I wouldn’t look too much into that yet, we are mixing and matching to see who can do what, but this is something to keep an eye on. Grant was the JUCO Student-Athlete of the year, offensive player of the year, an All-American, and helped his team win a National Title. Not bad for a guy that may play. My only caution is we have had bad ass JUCO guys before in the Frost era like Dedrick Mills or Greg Bell, but all signs point to this guy having a presence in 2022.
As mentioned in the Rahmir Johnson paragraph, an unfortunate injury to Gabe Ervin is what thrust Johnson into starting duty. For all of the accolades I rambled off for Grant, Ervin’s may be the most impressive. Gabe Ervin was the first ever true freshman to start for Nebraska in the programs history. It’s tough to ignore that. With that said, it’s of course all about how he comes back from that knee injury he suffered. Until I see him in live game action, I just can’t get there with what I think he can do this year. The staff needs to be very careful to not reinjure something with him, we can’t have a Fidone situation. The kid has all the tools, now it’s just about getting back to where he was.
The guy that every Husker fan loves is Jacquez Yant, a 6’2 235 pound bulldozer. While I understand a lot of people loving him, it’s tough for me to see him overtaking Johnson or Grant. However, I do see him having a niche with this offense at the goalline or to give Johnson/Grant some breaks. He is somewhat limited with ability, but our staff found ways for him to be extremely effective. Of course, I could be massively wrong here and Whipples offense is just this downhill attack that he would be perfect for. But I don’t see that so far. Yant is one of those guys that will absolutely chew up teams like Georgia S, North Dakota, even some really bad defenses like Northwestern last year. But when you can scheme for what he does and you have the players to match him, it gets tough.
After that we have a pair of true freshmen in Ajay Allen and Emmett Johnson. Allen was committed to our new RBs coach Applewhite at TCU before changing his commitment to Nebraska with the new hiring. As I stated with the Mickey Joseph hire, that will give him a leg up on guys like Johnson who are trying to establish a name for themselves and committed to a different position coach. However, Johnson was voted Minnesota Mr Football, and also won a National Player of the Year poll (take that with a grain of salt, fans voted and us Husker fans did our thing). But nevertheless he is an intriguing kid to see what he can do a few years down the road.
Let’s be honest, none of this matters unless our OL can be so much better than they were last year. And going back to what i’ve said before, who knows what Whipple will gravitate towards in the run game. That will make the difference between a guy like Yant playing over a guy like Johnson.
Next up we will have the TightEnd preview on Monday, have a great weekend!