Husker RBs made progress, but competition has just begun
The Red-White Spring Game didn't even feature to-the-ground tackling until the second half, when most of the projected starters had already called it a day.
So it was hard for Scott Frost or anyone else to take much away from the performance of Nebraska's running backs.
However, the fourth-year head coach was still encouraged by the final spring audition for one of the most pressing questions on NU's roster.
The Husker running backs combined to rush 59 times for 396 yards and three touchdowns between the Red and White teams. But, again, those numbers are qualified because tackles were essentially judgment calls by the officials for the first two quarters.
Still, Frost said there was plenty to feel good about with the progress Nebraska's running backs made during spring ball on through Saturday's scrimmage.
"I thought that was a bright spot (Saturday), seeing those guys run hard," Frost said. "That's kind of hard to tell sometimes. We're not live very much and don't completely tackle to the ground very much in spring practice…
"So it's kind of hard to tell with running backs. In the second half, seeing some guys breaking tackles and running through contact, I thought that was a real positive today."
Marvin Scott led all rushers with 75 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Gabe Ervin ran it a game-high 12 times for 57 yards, while walk-on Jaquez Yant had nine attempts for 64 yards in the second half alone.
Scott, who finished with just 71 yards on 24 carries in his five appearances last year, said the competition at running back this offseason made the entire group more dialed in than ever.
"I think about (the competition) every day," Scott said. "I just try to do my part, and everything will work out."
The newest member of the room, Ervin's play on Saturday capped off an impressive first college spring after enrolling early in January.
He said he'd added 10-15 pounds to his frame over the winter and was already much more comfortable with the speed of the game. Ervin knows he still had a lot of work remaining, but this spring gave him even more confidence that he could have an immediate impact in 2021.
"The competition is the way I want it," Ervin said. "That's why I picked Nebraska, to compete against high-level people just like me. I just got to come to work every day and do what I do."
As for Yant, he ended the spring well on his way to becoming one of the surprises of the season. A former three-star recruit out of Tallahassee, Fla., walked on at NU due to academic issues.
After redshirting last year, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Yant was arguably the Huskers' most consistent and physical back during spring ball. That played out once again when the tackling went live in the second half.
"We're lucky to have him. Glad to have him," Frost said. "He's still got some growing up to do, but he's a physical presence. I'm glad he was able to showcase that a little today."
While other running back candidates Markese Stepp and Rahmir Johnson did not play in the Spring Game due to injury, fans got a chance to see Sevion Morrison in action for the first time.
The former four-star prospect out of Tulsa, Okla., missed all of last season due to injury. He made his unofficial Husker debut by rushing eight times for 38 yards for the White team.
"I think you could see the flashes of (his potential) today," Frost said. "We keep seeing that."
In the end, though, consistency, reliability, and earning the coaching staff's trust will ultimately determine who among that group ends up at the top of the depth chart come August.
For now, at least, the Huskers feel even better about the options they have to work with at running back heading into a critical summer and fall camp.
"You saw flashes of what we expect from all those guys," Frost said. "We need more consistency, and we know those guys need to grow up fast because they're going to have to play Big Ten football coming up real soon. So I'm looking forward to more progress from them."