Nebraska Roster Reset: Offensive Backfield
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Roster Reset: Offensive Backfield

January 14, 2020

The 2019 season has officially come to an end, which means its time to turn our sights toward 2020. With Nebraska locking in the vast majority of its recruiting class during the early signing period, now is a good time to take stock of where the roster stands.

First up is a look at the offensive backfield.

Quarterbacks (4 Scholarship, 2 Walk-on)

Returners: JR Adrian Martinez, JR Noah Vedral, rFR Luke McCaffrey, SO Matt Masker (walk-on), rFR Brayden Miller (walk-on)

Newcomers: FR Logan Smothers

Departures: Andrew Bunch (walk-on)

From a roster construction standpoint, Nebraska couldn’t be in much better of a situation at quarterback. It has plenty of experience in now-upperclassmen Adrian Martinez and Noah Vedral. 

Luke McCaffrey coming off his redshirt and Logan Smothers joining the room (and enrolling early at that), things have gotten a bit more interesting. While all four quarterbacks will get a chance to show what they can do this spring and fall, I’ll be surprised if anyone other than Martinez takes the first snap against Purdue. What kind of season Nebraska has in 2020 very well might depend on what version of Martinez the Huskers get.

The only departure from the room is Andrew Bunch, who entered the transfer portal for the second time. Bunchy’s thank you message on Twitter makes it seem like this time the move is permanent. He’s gotten a chance to play more than most walk-ons over the last couple of years, but that room is a lot more crowded than when he arrived.

Running Backs (6 Scholarship, 6 Walk-On)

Returners: SR Dedrick Mills, JR Jaylin Bradley, rFR Rahmir Johnson, rFR Ronald Thompkins, JR Corbin Ruth (walk-on), SO Brody Belt (walk-on), SO Connor Ruth (walk-on), rFR Zach Weinmaster (walk-on), rFR Cooper Jewett (walk-on)

Newcomers: FR Sevion Morrison, FR Marvin Scott III, FR Trevin Luben (walk-on)

Departures: Wyatt Mazour, Austin Hemphill (walk-on), Maurice Washington (transfer portal)

Running back was far from a strength last season to the point where the Huskers had to rely on freshman wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson as their third-leading rusher, but reinforcements are on the way.

Dedrick Mills had an up-and-down season but still ended up leading Nebraska in rushing yards and touchdowns. The coaching staff seemed reluctant to make him the team’s workhorse back last season as his usage was all over the place. He seems like a safe bet to start and lead the team in carries again in 2020, but we’ll have to see how it plays out.

Rahmir Johnson played in four games to maintain his redshirt, but he only touched the ball in two of them with 18 of his 21 carries coming against Maryland. He’ll have had a full year in the program to build up his body and learn how to play at this level by the time next season rolls around and should be at least part of that rotation in the backfield. Incoming freshmen Sevion Morrison and Marvin Scott III are different kinds of backs but both will tray to crack that rotation as well.

The two wildcards in the room are Jaylin Bradley and Ronald Thompkins. 

We’re two years in to the Scott Frost era and for whatever reason Bradley still hasn’t shown the coaches enough to see the field. He’s played in one game and carried the ball two times in the past two years, even though Frost’s staff saw enough to offer him at UCF when he was in high school. Does Bradley continue to stick it out, or does he decide to take a look at what other options might be out there for him? 

As for Thompkins, he’s as talented a runner as the Frost has landed at Nebraska, but the injury history is troubling. If he’s able to return to full health and stay that way, he could be a difference-maker. But he’s now missed the majority of the last three seasons with injuries, including this season’s set-back in his recovery from a torn ACL suffered in high school.

Maurice Washington’s time at Nebraska officially came to an end just recently, but he hadn’t been in the picture since midway through the season. After a dynamic freshman season, Washington was productive in the first four games this year before he got banged up and his play tailed off.

Wyatt Mazour impressed the coaches enough to earn a scholarship once again as a senior, and he also carved out a situational role for himself on offense as well as a key role on special teams.

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