2023 Preview: Runningback

Scholarship Returning: Anthony Grant, Rahmir Johnson, Gabe Ervin Jr, Emmett Johnson

Scholarship Lost: Jacquez Yant (Florida A&M), Ajay Allen (Miami)

Scholarship Gained: Kwinten Ives

Phil Steele B1G Ranking of RB Room:
Ohio State
Penn State
Michigan State

The Nebraska runningback room is arguably the deepest position room for the entire team according to head coach Matt Rhule:

It’s hard to disagree with that… I think most knowledgeable fans were aware that there just wouldn’t be room for the top three guys of Grant, Allen, and Ervin Jr. We pretty much knew one of those guys would be seeing their way out. Especially when you have the swiss army knife Rahmir Johnson who figures in a bit too. It just rarely works out with 3 guys that are good enough to play, as Ervin, Allen, and Grant all had starts for us. Remember back to when Nebraska had Aaron Green, Ameer Abdullah, and Braylon Heard all sitting behind Burkhead in 2011? They slowly transferred out knowing that their carries would be few and far between, leaving only Abdullah to play out his time here.

And let’s be honest, runningback is one of the easiest positions to find a guy that can be good for you. Abdullah was the lowest rated out of those three and rose to the top. Devine Ozigbo was a two star committed to Iowa State before we flipped him and he ended up being our best RB in 2018. We seemingly every year get the the #1 JUCO RB in the country or an All-American like Bell or Grant. And every year you will have a stud recruit that seemingly has all sorts of accolades… even a guy like Emmett Johnson has some “player of the year” honors.

Nebraska’s RB room is tied for 1st on the team with QB according to Phil Steele when it comes to best position group. I’d agree it is more than likely our best room. We have a couple backs that are proven, and another one in Johnson that can do basically anything we ask.

Anthony Grant – Grant is Nebraska’s returning leading rusher from 2022, but remember that Ervin and Allen were both injured at that time. Grant came less than 100 yards from becoming Nebraska’s first 1,000 yard rusher since Devine Ozigbo in 2018. Grant was also named Honorable Mention B1G in 2022, so you would believe he is the favorite. But remember that Grant was in the proverbial doghouse for some of spring, so making that up could be an uphill battle. Not for nothing, but the practice I went to had Grant running with the 3s. Unsure if we should read anything into that, or if they are just rotating the top 3.

Gabe Ervin Jr – Ervin has been injured some of the past couple seasons. Don’t forget, Ervin Jr was the first true freshman RB to start an opening season game for Nebraska in the programs history. Ervin only had 20 rushes for less than 100 yards last year, but was battling for time between Grant and Allen. I think this is who trots out to start Game 1 for Nebraska, but we do have packages to get multiple RBs in the game at the same time.

Rahmir Johnson Jr – I’ve been fascinated with Johnson since he came here. He was a speed guy recruited by the previous staff, but almost seemed like he was good at a ton of things but not great at something to get him on the field. Johnson is the fastest of our RBs and according to his coach, packs more of a punch than you would expect from someone his size.

Emmett Johnson – Johnson was a last minute add by the previous staff that i’m still not sure what to think about. The good news is we have 3 guys we can rely on in front of him. Big year for him to make some strides and be ready for when the above 3 eventually move on.

Kwinton Ives – Ives comes to Nebraska after being recruited to UConn by his position coach originally. As a true freshman he has a little ways to go to be ready for 2023, but much like we said with Johnson, he has time to get ready with upperclassmen trying to see the field in front of him.

The fullbacks

Nebraska has a host of fullbacks on the roster, starting with Janiran Bonner who we all saw get the first play of the spring game:

One of the things I saw at practice was some triple option being ran by Sims and a fullback, so that should be a nice Viagra pill for you Husker fans. Nebraska also has a host of walk-ons to help with Trevor Ruth (Transfer from Nebraska-Kearney), Braden Klover, Barrett Liebentritt (Transfer from Notre Dame where he was on kick return team), and Landon Ternus.

While I don’t expect a ton of fullback plays, I can see us using them 15 times a game or so in certain packages.


We are loaded here, and really it will come down to who shows the best. I am a little worried about our underclassmen, but help is on the way with Kewan Lacy in the 2024 recruiting class.

While Grant was running with the 3s the practice I attended, B1G network showed him with the 1s many times. So I think Ervin and Grant are going to be our top guys. Rahmir Johnson is the player that I believe our OC and Rhule look at as “change of pace” or “fun” due to being able to do so many different things.

Our scheme is going to be to run the ball and drain the clock with such a depleted WR room, on top of our tackles needing a ton of help with pass blocking. I actually saw a lot of scheme where our RBs were chipping the DEs and edge rushers to give help to our tackles, so I think our coaches know that there is some help needed in pass blocking. You even saw our ILBs blitzing during practice and coming in with free rushers not only in pass plays, but run plays as well.

People are going to be pumped with how much we try to run the ball, that’s for sure. But we are going to have to keep people on their toes with the pass game… can we do that?

Tune in tomorrow (Wednesday) where we go over the WR room, which is a drastic change from our RB group.

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5 thoughts on “2023 Preview: Runningback

  1. What do you think our run/pass percentages will be for the season? How many qb carries per game? And should I take the under for wins at 5.5? I’m having a hard time justifying much of the kool-aid that has been flowing in Husker land lately. Please help.

    1. I think we are going to be so run heavy for a couple different reasons. First, we are unbelievably thin at WR. Second, I don’t think Rhule trusts our pass blocking especially with TP out. 60% may be too much of a discrepancy but it wouldn’t shock me.

      I have the win total at 6 and I think it will land there, but if I had to bet one way or the other as to not push, I would take the under. However, my Iowa friend going through the schedule rattled off 6 games where i’m not scared at all. Colorado, LT, NIllinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan State, Then what happens if they screw around and upset Minnesota, Maryland, Wisconsin, or Iowa?

      1. If we could please at least beat the Deion Buffaloes – which I’m pretty sure he took upon himself to rename the school after himself – I’ll consider it a not completely wasted season.

        But yep, if everything I hear coming into the season from coaches holds up, we’ll be run heavy. The big questions with a heavy running game to me always are:
        1. Can you actually be effective at the run to make the defense adjust/load the box more. Because won’t matter if you can’t run the ball period against ‘base’ defense.
        2. Can you actually make the team pay enough times with the passing game when they do adjust?

        That being said, one thing that always changes that run/pass mix is if defense is real bad against good teams and you fall behind quick, then we may be seeing much more passing in some games than our ideal scenarios.

        I have a feeling like against Michigan, we’re going to have a real hard time running at all, and that game will go to pot quick if our defense isn’t respectable. That being said, beating Michigan this year isn’t exactly on my realistic goals for the team.

        After looking at the win total predictions, we only face 1 preseason ranked team in Michigan? Wow. Will be interesting to see if Wiscy, Iowa, or Mich St climb rankings, but I don’t follow their ins and outs much.

      2. Ya, in regards to MIchigan i’m curiousif we will just try to keep it competitive and run to get the clock moving.

        We have a very easy schedule and 2024 will be much tougher. Bowl game this year.

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