The bellcow is back. Maybe. Dedrick Mills, Nebraska’s senior running back, might be back in action Saturday against Purdue after going through early pregame warmups with the rest of the running backs.
Mills hasn’t played since the first quarter of a Nov. 14 win over Penn State. He had three carries in that opening frame against the Nittany Lions for 11 yards before exiting. Mills was on the sideline with teammates for a Nov. 21 loss to Illinois, but he wasn’t suited up to play. He did not make the short trip to Iowa City the following Friday for a Nov. 27 loss to Iowa.
Nebraska has missed him, but the usage this season with the lead tailback has been interesting. Mills had only 28 carries in the two weeks before that Penn State game. He was a secondary piece against Ohio State in the opener, running it nine total times for 25 yards and a score. Then against Northwestern he was given more slack with which to operate—19 carries—but registered only 59 yards and a score. Both defenses were and remain strong, particularly against the run, so production is understandable.
Usage is a different story. Nebraska trumpeted this offseason that Mills would be a workhorse kind of back. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound Georgia native closed the 2019 campaign strong with 347 yards on 53 carries in his final three games, and Nebraska said with improved comfort within the offense, Mills could use that as a springboard into the new season.
Watch for how Nebraska uses the running back Saturday against Purdue. The Boilermakers are fifth in the conference in yards per carry allowed as a defense (3.56), so will Nebraska want to run Mills into the teeth of that bunch? Is he healthy enough to handle that? Or will Nebraska go by-committee? Ronald Thompkins is also in West Lafayette with the team and went through warmups. Thompkins opened the season as the primary backup, and has been the guy when healthy and available.
Or, will Nebraska roll with more of the same: the quarterback run game with Wan’Dale Robinson getting the majority of the non-Martinez/McCaffrey carries? Aside from the two quarterbacks, NU’s leading rusher this season is Robinson with 162 yards on 29 carries.
>> Purdue had some questions this week with rumors swirling around potential opt-outs. The two biggest players for the Boilermakers, though, wideouts Rondale Moore and David Bell, were both on the field warming up during the pregame period.
>> Redshirt freshman defensive back Myles Farmer was carted off the field during pregame warmups. It’s unclear what exactly happened, but Farmer had an air cast applied to his right leg and a Nebraska staffer held pressure on the lower portion of his leg as he left the field. Farmer was immediately taken to an ambulance.
Myles Farmer was returning a punt in pregame. Was back pedaling, stepped down on his ankle. Folks, it was nasty. Air case on his leg and carted off the field. Every time we're in West Lafayette, these freak issues happen. #Huskers
— Ben McLaughlin (@bmclaughlin4) December 5, 2020
>> Two young defensive backs made the trip: freshman Tamon Lynum and junior college transfer Nadab Joseph. The latter made his debut against Illinois two weeks ago on special teams, but hasn’t played much on defense. Lynum has played special teams in each game so far.
>> Freshman running back Marvin Scott III was not out warming up with the team initially. But, after Farmer left the field, Scott came out on his own to go through some stretching.
>> Austin Allen, a week after sustaining a nasty hit in the fourth quarter of the Hawkeye game, appears good to go. He went through warmups. There doesn’t appear to be any worry about him going forward. The junior tight end has 14 catches for 169 yards this season.
This post will continue to be updated as we get closer to kickoff.