Maurice Washington was not on the Huskers’ depth chart when it was released Monday morning.
When head coach Scott Frost met with the media Monday afternoon for his weekly press conference, he announced the sophomore running back will not play Saturday against Indiana. Sources tell Hail Varsity Washington was not with the team during the bye week.
Frost said Washington is not part of the team’s plans in “the immediate future” and his status is to be determined moving forward. He did not practice last week and did not practice Monday morning, though Frost said Washington is still in classes “as far as I know.” Frost said the situation is not related to his legal situation in California, but that, "We expect all our players to conduct themselves in a certain matter and there are certain things that are non-negotiable."
Washington is currently Nebraska's third-leading rusher (298 yards on 50 carries) and fourth-leading receiver (12 catches for 162 yards) through the first seven games of the 2019 season, though he’s been limited in recent weeks by injury, suspension and gameplan.
Through the Huskers’ first four games, the California native had 417 yards of total offense and three scores on 43 touches (9.7 yards per play). But, through the last three games, he’s only registered 43 yards of total offense on 19 touches (2.3 yards per play) and hasn’t been able to find the end zone.
Washington left the Illinois game at halftime on Sept. 21 with an ankle injury and managed to play against Ohio State on Sept. 28 but was limited because of the injury. The following week, against Northwestern at home, Washington sat the first half as a result of what Frost deemed a violation of team rules. He finished that game with six touches for a loss of 1 yard.
Last time out at Minnesota, Washington again appeared to be playing at less than 100% and finished the evening with seven touches for a quiet 25 yards.
In recent weeks, Frost has grown increasingly vocal about the need for Washington to be more reliable. The latest news adds to what has been a tumultuous first two years for the running back.
Washington arrived late in fall camp ahead of the 2018 season and even though he started off relatively underweight for a running back in the Big Ten, he flashed that same potential that earned him a 4-star rating coming out of high school. He ended the 2018 campaign with 455 rushing yards and 221 receiving yards out of his change-of-pace role behind starter Devine Ozigbo.
In February of this year, news broke that Washington was facing felony and misdemeanor charges in California stemming from an incident that took place the summer before he enrolled at Nebraska. Days after initial reports came out, a judge in Santa Clara County signed an arrest warrant for the running back.
Washington is accused of sending a video depicting an alleged sexual assault of his former girlfriend to that girl in March of 2018. Because the video was taken two years prior, while the girl was under the age of 18, and Washington sent the video while legally deemed an adult, he is facing a felony charge of distribution of child pornography as well as a misdemeanor charge under California’s “Revenge Porn” law because he’s accused of sending the video to inflict emotional damage on the victim.
Washington enrolled at UNL in the fall of 2018. Nebraska has maintained throughout the months that have followed that it was not aware of the details surrounding Washington’s situation while he was playing during his freshman year.
On September 13, 2018, the UNL Police Department informed Nebraska’s athletic department that the Nebraska Attorney General's office was seeking to talk to Washington, but UNLPD did not know the reason for the inquiry.
Jamie Vaughn, Nebraska’s Executive Associate Athletic Director-Compliance, was put in touch with the Attorney General’s office that same day and was told Washington was not in any trouble in Nebraska but Vaughn was not made aware of the reason for the inquiry.
Vaughn then informed Bob Burton, the Deputy Athletic Director-Chief of Staff, and Athletic Director Bill Moos of the conversation with the Attorney General's office and Washington was introduced to Jon Bruning, a former Nebraska Attorney General who had a “long-standing” relationship with Associate Athletic Director Matt Davison and head football coach Scott Frost that preceded “either’s employment at the University of Nebraska,” according to a release from the athletic department back in February.
Frost had subsequent conversations with Bruning to determine whether the football program needed to take any action, but was not shared any details of Washington’s situation. Bruning cited attorney-client privilege, though he did share that “he doubted it would result in criminal charges.”
Nebraska has stated that there were no additional details provided to anyone in the athletic department until an inquiry on Feb. 8, when Michael Bott, a reporter for NBC Bay Area and the reporter who first broke the story, contacted UNL to give notice of an upcoming report.
Later in February, Bruning referred Washington to John C. Ball, a Lincoln-based criminal defense attorney, upon learning that charges were pending against Washington, but Ball has not represented Washington in California court as he does not have a license to practice in the state.
Washington has instead been represented by a public defender. He was scheduled for a preliminary hearing setting in July but was granted a continuance at the request of his council. On Sept. 3, three days after the Huskers’ season-opener against South Alabama, Washington’s attorney asked for a second continuance and the date was moved to last Thursday. Washington’s defense attorney again asked and was granted and the matter was delayed until Dec. 12. Washington has not been required to be in attendance for any of these and has instead been with the Huskers.
In June, Washington was also cited by UNL police for possession of drug paraphernalia when UNLPD was called to his dorm because of a marijuana odor coming from his room and a pipe with burned residue was found when they entered. He sat out the first half of the South Alabama game as a suspension, though Frost never clarified if it was due to the citation or his ongoing legal case in California. Frost has said throughout the process that any punishment would be reserved until after the matter in California had been completely adjudicated.
With Washington out of the picture for at least this weekend’s game against Indiana, Nebraska will turn to junior Dedrick Mills as its lead runner. Mills has 367 yards and seven scores on the season, averaging 4.8 yards a carry. The primary backup could be any of three players listed on the depth chart with “OR[s]” by their name — senior walk-on Wyatt Mazour, freshman Rahmir Johnson or redshirt freshman walk-on Brody Belt.
Frost has stated the goal for Johnson this season is to preserve his redshirt, though Johnson is also listed as the backup kick returner on the depth chart behind Wan’Dale Robinson. Robinson left the Minnesota game with a lower-leg injury, and if he can’t go Johnson will be the main guy at that spot.