Walk-on Nabity making NU coaches take notice
One of the more interesting and important position battles this spring has been at a running back spot with maybe the biggest shoes to fill on Nebraska's offense in All-Big Ten running back Ameer Abdullah.
Senior Imani Cross and junior Terrell Newby are the only backs returning with any notable college game experience, but others like sophomore Adam Taylor and redshirt freshman Mikale Wilbon seem to be just as capable of taking the reigns of the starting job.
However, one name that probably wasn't on anyone's radar in the running back competition has emerged after the first three weeks of spring practice - junior walk-on Graham Nabity.
The former Elkhorn (Neb.) standout has been consistently productive enough this spring that new head coach Mike Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf both made it a point to mention him by name when discussing the current situation at running back this past week.
When asked about any walk-on players who have caught his eye during spring ball, Riley at first declined to single out any one player, but then made one exception.
"I will say Nabity," Riley said. "He's made a ton of football plays out there and looks like a good player."
Prior to walking on at Nebraska, the 6-foot, 210-pound Omaha native was one of the top running backs in the state during his time at Elkhorn. As a senior, Nabity led the Antlers to the 2011 Class B state championship with 1,532 rushing yards on 239 attempts and 24 rushing touchdowns, which led all of Class B.
After earning second-team all-state honors, Nabity turned down a full-ride scholarship offer from South Dakota State to walk-on at NU. He's played in just 13 games during his first three years in the program, carrying the ball seven times for 31 yards and also seeing playing time on special teams.
But with a clean slate with a new coaching staff, Nabity has put himself in position to potentially earn a spot in a running back rotation that Langsdorf said was still far from settled.
"It's a little early to tell," Langsdorf said. "We've changed the order up a little bit here and there… Like I said, Nabity has looked good. Those guys are all getting turns with everybody, but it's starting to clear up a little bit."
Nabity's real test will likely come during fall camp, when the Huskers truly start to work on their running game with far more live scrimmage situations. Langsdorf said the backs would be evaluated on every aspect of the position, including pass protection, receiving ability and understanding run play patterns to know where to go with the football.
It will be a long up-hill road for Nabity to cement a place in Nebraska's backfield by the time the season starts, but he will continue to get every opportunity to do so between now and the end of fall camp.
"It's hard to simulate game conditions, game speed, full-speed tackling," Langsdorf said. "We've had a few live periods, but that part of it is hard. You'll see glimpses of it when we've had those sessions, and it's looked pretty good. But that's going to take a bit of time, and we're going to have to try to get as many live reps as we can leading up to the spring game."
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