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Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Few Hints Offered To Who Starts at Running Back, Receiver for Huskers

August 24, 2022

When junior transfer quarterback Casey Thompson was named Nebraska’s starting quarterback just over a week before the Huskers’ season-opening game it solidified something the offense was leaning toward.

Head coach Scott Frost said the starting job was Thompson’s job to lose just a week earlier. Thompson told media members on Sunday the news wasn’t a big surprise to him. By gauging coaches’ reactions at fall camp he felt confident he’d earn the spot in the end.

But outside of Thompson, little of the starting offensive lineup is known. Coaches cycled through a competitive pack of running backs and receivers in fall camp and in the lead up to Saturday’s game. Yet, no “definitive No. 1” has emerged, offensive coordinator Mark Whipple said after practice on Aug. 18. That same day he complimented the offensive line and its health going into the start of the season.

So what might the rest of the offense look like? Well, Frost may have teased some spots, or at least tipped his hand slightly, during Sunday’s press conference. He was asked about leadership on the offensive line and threw out some names.

“Trent Hixson has been the lead guy, which is natural with the center making a lot of the calls,” Frost said. “Broc Bando does a good job. We’ve got some young leaders that are going to be really good. Teddy (Prochazka) and Henry (Lutovsky), not leaving anyone out, and Turner (Corcoran) does a good job as well as several others. That is a really tight unit right now and like I said their work ethic has been unbelievable.”

Frost later explained how encouraged he was by the offensive line in camp. It performed well against a competitive, stout defense.

“I saw good competition and I think we have improved in run-blocking,” he said. “Some of that is having running backs that can make the offensive line look good, which helps. In this league, if you can’t run the ball then you’re making yourself one-dimensional.”

That leads into the backfield. Frost didn’t name a starting running back during the Sunday presser. When asked directly, he said he’d have to talk with running backs coach Bryan Applewhite. He knew there was some separation but with each back possessing their own strengths, playing time has proven difficult to allocate so far.

Self-described “wide back” Rahmir Johnson said similar things about the running back group last week. He said everybody among the group could play. That same day, Whipple explained the starting running back job could be up to four people — five including Johnson, who’s also taken reps at slot receiver this fall.

Those four names Whipple floated at practice last week were: sophomore Jaquez Yant, freshman Ajay Allen, junior Anthony Grant and freshman Emmett Johnson. Who plays in what packages and when likely won’t be known until the final whistle in Dublin.

Receiver hierarchy also is unknown but frequency of a few names being mentioned at fall camp, along with the recurring names during Sunday’s press conference may provide some indication.

Frost mentioned a few names while explaining new roster additions brought a little confidence injection.

“I think one of the best things about the changes that have been made is that we added a lot of really confident guys,” the head coach said. “I’d point to Trey Palmer, Marcus Washington. Some of those guys are almost confident to a fault and our offense needed a little injection of that.”

Thompson, outside of a clinical breakdown of the Northwestern defense, discussed this group of receivers. He said Palmer is “probably the fastest receiver I’ve ever thrown to.” Palmer and Washington both get out of their breaks well. Then he listed Omar Manning, Alante Brown, Oliver Martin, Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda and Brody Belt.

“We have a really deep receiver room so I am very thankful and happy with that position,” Thompson said. “Same at running back as well. Good thing we have good coaches because coach Applewhite is going have to pick the rotation and how that is going to go. I trust the coaches.

“We are going to rotate six or seven receivers on offense. We are going to rotate multiple running backs as well. I will be happy with whoever is in.”

Likely, this year’s offense will look different than last. New player personnel emerged since the last time the Huskers took the field. Not to mention a remodeled coaching staff. Whipple, one of those new faces, will call plays from the sidelines. As for who’s starting at the coveted starting Nebraska running back spot? No word yet from Applewhite, who is also entering his first season in Lincoln.

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