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Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska 2023 Fall Camp Preview: Running Backs

July 20, 2023

This is a series taking a look at each position on Nebraska’s 2023 roster. It’s a brief glimpse on the most intriguing aspects of each position. For full previews on every position, each opponent, feature stories and various important tidbits concerning Nebraska’s 2023 season, check out the Hail Varsity annual yearbook. This year’s edition is 162 pages filled with all you need to know to get the season started. You can read it here by purchase.

There’s a lot of Peach State promise at the top of the lineup. Buford, Georgia, natives Anthony Grant and Gabe Ervin Jr. are two of the most offensive weapons Nebraska has this season. They give Nebraska a sort of powerful two-pronged attack in the backfield. Youthful athleticism behind them could give the Huskers a backfield to give defenses fits.

Grant ran for 915 yards last season while Ervin feels himself once again after two seasons marred by injury and uncertainty. In a conversation with Greg Sharpe on Sports Nightly earlier this week, running backs coach EJ Barthel said he’s been working with Grant on some fundamental aspects of carrying. Barthel hopes that helps Grant handle the gauntlet of a Big Ten season. The junior college transfer ran for 22, 29 and 6 yards in the Huskers’ final three games last season, respectively. Ervin, meanwhile, became an early favorite of the coaching staff for his commitment to the new staff. He embraced winter workouts and rewarded himself with a touchdown run in the Red-White Game. He’s bulked up already this summer headed into a fall camp where he could push Grant for snaps.

Then there’s the enigma of Rahmir Johnson. He had just 19 carries last year, 12 of which came against Iowa in the season finale. He’s back and it seems the coaching staff is intrigued by his skillset. The junior back will enter his fifth season as a Husker this fall and will play a different offense for the third consecutive season. He’s shown elusive quickness and breakout potential in the backfield, while also providing a threat in the passing game. That gives offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield plenty of options for Johnson should he find the field this fall. Barthel also spoke highly of Emmett Johnson, who has yet to get an opportunity to prove his values in the fall. Coaches were encouraged by Emmett’s potential in the spring and from what they saw on film the previous spring.

Wahoo native Trevin Luben has played just once in three seasons but was the 2021 Scout Team Player of the Year at Nebraska. He’s in the backfield but is more likely to move into the fullback role than to gain regular carries. Trevor Ruth, a Seward native, transferred into the program from Nebraska-Kearney in the spring. He’s also a likely candidate to play a more conventional fullback role. Former Notre Dame walk-on Barret Liebentritt, an Omaha native, transferred to Nebraska in the offseason and will walk on as a fullback. He was a fullback at Omaha Skutt, where he earned the nickname, “The Bull.”

Then there’s a litany of new faces. Kwinten Ives is a scholarship back in the 2023 recruiting class Barthel plucked from New Jersey. He’s got speed and athleticism that sets him apart from other backs. His adaptation into the college game will be interesting to watch in fall camp. Elkhorn South graduate Cole Ballard is a walk-on this fall but his toughness and nose for the endzone always makes him someone to keep an eye on. Fellow walk-on Gage Wager is essentially a do-anything kind of player who also has a history of punting and kicking. The son of tight ends coach Bob Wager is listed on the Nebraska depth chart as a running back so expect him to work with that group most often.

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