Of the areas that need fixing on Nebraska’s offense, the offensive line should be the top priority. Along with allowing 29 sacks, which tied for fourth-most in the Big Ten, the Huskers averaged 180.17 rushing yards this season, the fewest in the Frost era.
While o-lines have a major say in how effective a run game can be, those who are doing the running are important, too. Like other key positions such as o-line and quarterback, Nebraska will likely be looking for a running back in the transfer portal after that position’s depth has taken a hit.
The first hit came at Oklahoma, where promising true freshman Gabe Ervin Jr. went down with a season-ending knee injury. Rahmir Johnson soon emerged as the team’s lead back, but the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder missed the last two games due to injuries. Jaquez Yant and Markese Stepp saw inconsistent playing time throughout the season, which made it hard to get into a rhythm. Two Husker backs also put their names in the transfer portal, including Sevion Morrison and Marvin Scott III.
With just one running back—Ashton Hayes of Reno, Nevada—in the 2022 recruiting class, the Huskers need more depth in Ron Brown’s room. Brown took over as running backs coach following the firings of four assistant coaches, including that position coach in Ryan Held.
Which running backs could Nebraska be looking at in the portal? Here are four names to keep an eye on.
DeaMonte Trayanum, Arizona State
If the Huskers are looking to add more bulk to their already big running back room—Yant weighs in at 245 pounds while Stepp is listed at 230—DeaMonte Trayanum should get a call.
Trayanum is listed at 5-11, 235 pounds. In two seasons at Arizona State under Herm Edwards, Trayanum rushed for 692 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s from Akron, Ohio, and held offers from Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan among others. Could he be looking for a place to play closer to home in the Big Ten?
With uncertainty surrounding Nebraska’s running back room for 2022, Trayanum could provide a spark that was missing in the hand-off run game this season.
Bentavious Thompson, UCF
Once recruited to UCF by Travis Fisher and Jovan DeWitt, Bentavious Thompson spent three seasons in Orlando and rushed for a combined 1,136 yards and 13 touchdowns. The 6-1, 197-pound Miami native went through spring ball this offseason at UCF, which was breaking in a new head coach in Gus Malzahn, but wasn’t on the roster when the season began.
With Fisher now coaching defensive backs at Nebraska, could there be a path to Lincoln for Thompson?
Shaun Shivers, Auburn
Shaun Shivers is looking for an opportunity for more playing time after getting just 14 carries for 87 yards this season at Auburn.
The 5-7, 189-pound Shivers has plenty of experience playing in a spread offense—Malzahn was his coach for three of his four seasons at Auburn. In four years with the Tigers, Shivers had 201 carries for 1,020 yards and eight touchdowns. His best season was his first, in 2018, when he rushed for 371 yards and three scores.
Josh Henderson, North Carolina
Josh Henderson has been stuck playing behind really good backs at North Carolina for some time now. In 2019 and 2020, Henderson watched as Michael Carter and Javonte Williams got all the reps. Both were later drafted into the NFL. Then this season, North Carolina brought in Tennessee transfer Ty Chandler, who wound up rushing for 1,063 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Henderson, a 5-11, 215-pounder, rushed for 209 yards on 41 carries in two seasons for the Tar Heels. When he was being recruited, Henderson had Nebraska listed among his top six choices.