football Edit

Spring grade out: Running back

We continue our spring positional grade outs today by giving our final take on Nebraska's running back.

Other spring grade outs: QB

Sophomore Tre Bryant appears to be Nebraska's No. 1 back coming out of the spring.
Sophomore Tre Bryant appears to be Nebraska's No. 1 back coming out of the spring. (Associated Press)

What we learned: Bryant appears to have the leg up after the spring

It's very hard to get a great read on Nebraska's running back position coming out of the spring, but it does seem pretty clear from everything you hear on the inside that sophomore Tre Bryant has the early leg up on being NU's starter in 2017.

Bryant possesses the versatility as a runner, blocker and a receiver. That makes him very valuable in Danny Langsdorf's offensive system.

However, both juniors Mikale Wilbon and Devine Ozigbo had their moments this spring as well, and there's a good chance we will see all three contribute and have a role in the offense this fall.

Bryant's consistency is what gives him the early edge coming out of the spring, but Wilbon can be as explosive as any player on the roster, and Ozigbo's physicality is hard to ignore.

Biggest spring concern: Does this team have a true No. 1 running back? 

Nebraska went on a magical run at running back from 2003 to 2014 where basically every starter they had went on to play in the NFL. From Cory Ross, Brandon Jackson, Marlon Lucky, Roy Helu, Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah, NU was blessed with plenty of talent at the running back position over those years.

The last two seasons the Huskers failed to produce a 1,000 yard rusher since Abdullah left the program. The last time they went three straight years without producing a 1,000 yard back was 1974 to 1976, which was before Tom Osborne fully committed to a downhill rushing attack offense. They were a more balanced attack in his early years as a head coach.

The question going forward into 2017 is do the Huskers have a true No. 1 running back that can rush for 1,000 yards?

With a drastic change in quarterback styles, this will be a big question going forward with the running back position. They need a back to step up in 2017.

Walk-on Wyatt Mazour did enough this spring to possibly carve out a role on special teams.
Walk-on Wyatt Mazour did enough this spring to possibly carve out a role on special teams. (Associated Press)

Spring surprise: Walk-on play behind top three has been solid 

Probably the biggest surprise this spring for Nebraska was how impressive both walk-on running backs Wyatt Mazour and Austin Rose ran the football.

The duo got plenty of reps in the Red-White spring game, along with NU's two other major spring scrimmages.

Head coach Mike Riley said after the spring game that both Mazour and Rose definitely have carved a role on this football team and should be in a position to be contributors on special teams this fall.

Mazour and Rose are two players that probably could do some heavy damage at the FCS level, but it's good to see that they are embracing their roles and finding ways to be contributors.

Looking head: This should be a different type of season for the running backs

This will be the first time since arguably 2007 where Nebraska hasn't had a true dual-threat at the quarterback position.

No longer are you going to see the quarterback position treated like a ball carrier, which means NU's current backs are going to have to step up and take ownership of the rushing offense.

You are also going to see the screen and the check down game become even a bigger part of the offense, along with quick swing passes to the flats. All of this will be treated as an extension of the running game, and it will be important for NU's backs to take advantage of these new opportunities going forward.