The final day of June brings us to No. 6 in our countdown of the top-10 most intriguing Huskers of the 2022 season.
If you happened to miss the first four selections, don’t worry. They’re all right here:
Before we dive into discussing our No. 6 pick, let’s clarify something first: What do we mean by intriguing? Oxford Languages defines intriguing as arousing one’s curiosity or interest. In other words, fascinating. Which 10 Huskers fascinate you the most heading into the season? That’s what we’re trying to figure out.
Now that the definition is out of the way, let’s chat about No. 6—Anthony Grant.
Anthony Grant | 5-foot-11, 210 pounds | Running back
The offseason additions at key areas of Nebraska’s offense have been intriguing in their own right.
The Huskers struck when the iron was hot with offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who’s coming off a 2021 season at Pittsburgh where his offense averaged 41.4 points per game, third-best in the country. His quarterback, Kenny Pickett, was a Heisman Trophy finalist and first-round NFL draft pick. Whipple’s playcalling helped turn receiver Jordan Addison into the Biletnikoff Award winner. Addison, you may recall, put the college football world in a frenzy when he entered the transfer portal. The talented pass catcher eventually landed with head coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams at USC.
Whipple wasn’t the only high-profile offensive hire, of course. Nebraska added Mickey Joseph from LSU to coach its receivers and Bryan Applewhite from TCU to handle the running backs. We won’t see how Joseph and Applewhite structure their rotations or who they tab as starters until the season begins, but at this moment they’re proving to be strong pickups due to their performance on the recruiting front.
As for the actual players on the field, the Huskers took to the transfer portal and brought in two quarterbacks—Casey Thompson from Texas and Chubba Purdy from Florida State—and a couple receivers who have shown big-play ability at their respective stops: Trey Palmer at LSU and Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda at Saddleback College and New Mexico State. Both Palmer and Garcia-Castaneda have made highlight-reel plays in their college football careers and hope to create more in Lincoln.
But while the additions of a pass-happy offensive coordinator, two quarterbacks and two receivers are exciting, one thing remains true, especially in a conference like the Big Ten: For all the Huskers’ new offensive pieces to click right away, there needs to be a productive hand-off run game. And Anthony Grant, Nebraska’s lone transfer addition at running back, was the top-rated junior-college back in the 2022 class, making him one of the more intriguing players on the roster.
After spending his first two seasons of college ball at Florida State, Grant, a former three-star recruit in the 2018 class, took the junior college route and landed at New Mexico Military Institute. It was in Roswell where Grant worked on his craft and was awarded another opportunity to play Power Five football.
After rushing for 819 yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games in 2020, Grant had a breakout year in 2021. The 210-pounder rushed for 1,730 yards with 18 touchdowns in 12 games last season as New Mexico Military Institute went on to win the National Junior College Athletic Association’s national championship, beating Iowa Western Community College. Grant rushed for 192 yards and one score on a whopping 34 carries against the Reivers.
Nebraska’s running back room is packed with bodies right now. Unofficially, there’s seven scholarship backs. During spring ball, there appeared to be a three-man top tier consisting of Rahmir Johnson, Jaquez Yant and Grant. It’s probably wise not to count out Gabe Ervin Jr., who was the starter last season until a season-ending knee injury against Oklahoma. Ervin didn’t compete in spring ball, but is back, in shape—he added 10 pounds of good weight—and ready to roll for fall camp.
There’s plenty for Applewhite to figure out, but if Grant can come close to resembling what he was at New Mexico Military Institute, he’d be a solid pick as the one who emerges from the pack. Of course, for there to be a strong hand-off run game, the offensive line will need to improve from last year. That’s easier said than done considering what that unit faces in 2022.
Not only will first-year offensive line coach Donovan Raiola be tasked with replacing a starting center and right guard, he needs to find another left guard, too. Last year’s starter there, Nouredin Nouili, revealed last Saturday he’s suspended for the 2022 season following a failed drug test. Two more projected starters, tackles Turner Corcoran and Teddy Prochazka, didn’t compete in spring ball as they each rehabbed injuries. They’ll be available for fall camp, but will need to quickly shake the rust off as the season-opener against Northwestern in Ireland on Aug. 27 is quickly approaching.
If the offensive line can find a way to swiftly jell, a dependable run game will help take the pressure off whoever wins the quarterback job and open up what Whipple is known for—his passing attack. Grant, a veteran running back, is an intriguing option who could benefit from an emphasis on a downhill run game.