Husker running backs have more to show than in the Spring game
With the first half of Nebraska's Spring game 'thud' or no tackling, it was hard to get a gauge of each player, especially the Huskers' running backs who do most of their work after contact.
One back, in particular, stood out, Anthony Grant. Grant maneuvered his way past the line of scrimmage cutting left after patiently waiting for his moment and took off down the sideline for a 60-yard touchdown and the first team's only score of their three drives.
"I was happy he got that touchdown run, we needed that we needed a spark," running back Rahmir Johnson said of his teammate. "It looked good, did a little cut, bounced outside and took off like he normally does.”
After transferring from Florida State to New Mexico Military Institute (JUCO) to Nebraska, Grant said he was glad to be back at the DI level.
“The spring game was good and just playing the spring game being back in D1 (football) and back in front of a lot of fans," he said on HuskerOnline's Husker Chat Live. "It was a great thing to be at and I really enjoyed it.”
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound junior had six carries for 71 yards and a 15-yard catch on third-and-11 from quarterback Logan Smothers.
Nebraska Head Coach Scott Frost said he thought the offense was a "little ugly" in the first half and part of that is because they didn't tackle.
"It is hard to tell whether some of those runs go when you are blowing it dead," Frost said. "We were being dreadfully simple and running inside zone and between the tackles and then you get tagged off and they would blow it down. I would not have wanted to be an official and decide where to spot a lot of those but it is hard to get a real read from that.”
Johnson said he was frustrated with the no tackling rule in the first half of the spring game but he understands that the coaches didn't want players to get hurt but "I want to play football."
Johnson rushed for 14 yards on six carries with a six-yard catch from Smothers towards the end of the first half.
While the running backs were pretty limited, the 5-foot-100, 185-pound back said the backs "played great."
"We look like dogs out there," Johnson said. "Like coach (Bryan Applewhite) always said, he’s trying to build diamonds and burst pipes and he built some diamonds for sure. I think we looked good out there all spring, even today. I was proud to see the performance.”
Jaquez Yant was probably the most affected by the thud tackling. Standing at 6-foot-2, 230-pounds, Yant is known for running behind his pads. During the Red-White scrimmage, he had 11 carries for 29 yards with a long of five yards.
On one play, he looked visibly frustrated after being called down after a few yards and jugged to the endzone 10 yards away, letting out a sign.
Because Nebraska was trying to protect its players and new offensive scheme/plays, Frost said there is a lot more to the running back group than what people saw during the spring game.
“(Grant) has had a really good spring. I think Jaquez (Yant) has made a lot of progress. Rahmir (Johnson) has too," Frost said. "Obviously, we are practicing without a lot of good players, Gabe Ervin being one of them, and we got a couple more guys coming in. The run game was hard to tell in the first half.
"The second half is as much push as I have seen on downhill running and that is what I have been seeing all spring," Frost continued. "I think the way the offensive line is playing and the way the running backs are running is going to make us more efficient in the run game and hopefully, when we start getting a little more creative, that will pay even bigger dividends.”
Johnson said he saw the running back group improve over the 15 spring practices.
“Each day, we got better and better," he said. "We’re going to be really good in the running back room come fall and I’m looking forward to it. I love all my guys in our room, we all come with something and I’m just excited to see what we’re gonna do this fall.”