Dedrick Mills is heading to the NFL.
The senior tailback and Georgia native announced on Twitter Tuesday that he will be forgoing the free year of eligibility granted by the NCAA and entering the 2021 NFL Draft. Mills will not be back at Nebraska for the 2021 season.
— Dedrick D. Mills (@MillsDedrick) January 12, 2021
Nagging injuries limited Mills throughout much of 2020. In six games, he had 84 carries but only 396 yards. It wasn’t until the final game of the season when Mills looked fully healthy and fully comfortable in the backfield. He rumbled for 191 yards against Rutgers that day, and did it on 25 carries.
“(I) wish I’d had more earlier in the season, but it is what it is,” Mills said during the year. “Whatever I can do to help my team win, I did it, despite all the talk and stuff on Nebraska.”
For his brief Nebraska career, Mills ran for 1,141 yards and 13 touchdowns on 227 carries. The tantalizing possibility of a bell cow kind of runner was there, but in his 18 appearances he averaged 12.5 yards and only carried the ball 20 times in a game twice.
Which makes projecting what the position will look like in his absence a bit of a crapshoot. With Mills, a reliable runner and an underrated pass-catcher out of the backfield, Nebraska still spread the ball around. What will it do without Mills?
Though running back coach Ryan Held has filled his room with promising talent, it’s still mostly inexperienced.
Marvin Scott III, a true freshman a season ago, served as the backup to Mills at running back in 2020, but only carried the ball 24 times for 62 yards. Redshirt freshman Rahmir Johnson had eight carries for 30 yards. Ronald Thompkins, a classmate of Johnson’s, had five for 24.
Nebraska was more comfortable turning to sophomore wideout Wan’Dale Robinson than its stable of freshmen runners when Mills was unavailable.
Johnson and Thompkins figure to be near the front of the line, as both will be entering into their third years on the team once the 2021 season rolls around. Thompkins, though, didn’t appear at all in 2019 as he worked his way back from knee surgeries, and Johnson carried the ball 21 times for 64 yards while preserving his redshirt. Neither will have much in-game experience to fall back on.
Scott proved he was physically up to the task. Sevion Morrison, the other true freshman tailback on the roster this past season, didn’t play after battling a myriad of bad injury and illness luck. In the most recent 2021 class, Nebraska signed one running back, Gabe Ervin, who will arrive in the summer.
In a move done seemingly to counteract the departure of Mills, Nebraska secured a transfer pledge from USC runner and former 4-star Markese Stepp. With 100 carries, 505 yards, and six rushing touchdowns in three seasons at Southern Cal to his name, Stepp will step into the running back room the most seasoned runner of the group. He will need a waiver to play right away in 2021, though, as he hasn’t yet graduated. For a moment it looked like the NCAA was set to vote on legislation that would approve a one-time free transfer for student-athletes, but that vote has been tabled.
Mills joins left tackle Brenden Jaimes, right guard Matt Farniok, right tackle Christian Gaylord, tight end Jack Stoll, and corner Dicaprio Bootle as seniors to decide they will be forgoing their extra year of eligibility and turning to the next chapter in their lives. The Huskers have also lost guard Boe Wilson, who will use his last remaining season of eligibility elsewhere. So far, outside linebacker JoJo Domann is the only senior to announce he will return and use his extra year.