Spring football is always filled with recurring storylines. For the team it’s a time to make progress in all areas as we head towards the summer offseason. There were a lot of interesting spring football storylines for the Huskers. One that consistently came up was the play of the running backs. The Huskers held their last practice of this spring on Wednesday. The team will cap off the spring with the Red-White Spring Game Saturday. Running backs coach Ryan Held does think he’s learned about his group through a tough spring.
There have been some rough times with players in and out of practice through the spring. The room is unproven but there is talent there. Held likes that the group is hungry, competitive and working to be great.
“I grade every single play,” Held said. “We’re really creating competition. I like the culture in the room, guys are helping each other out. They’re coaching each other in the room when we’re watching film and its good right now. But obviously, we got to be able to have everybody we recruited out there when it’s all said and done. Injuries are part of the game. But, we’ve had a good recovery of guys. And we need to finish up strong on Saturday.”
Lots of eyeballs will be on the ball-carriers this Saturday. According to Held the only backs we won’t see are Markese Stepp and Rahmir Johnson. That will provide everyone with a good glimpse into the progress the group has made. The spring game is just one part of the equation though. It’s going to be important to attack the offseason and make smart choices for his group. Held said things need to turn into “Rocky IV” this summer.
“The high level of training, the high level of eating, the watching film on your own, going out on your own and doing drills when no one else is around and everybody else wants to go to the lake and get on a boat,” Held said.
“You decide that I’m going to go out here and run routes. I’m going to work on my pass pro technique, I’m going to work on my footwork. That’s what it’s going to take. That’s something our guys, I think will do. But I’ll challenge them because what they do when no one else is looking is going to determine what happens out on this field.”
After spring practices have concluded Held will meet with each of the players in his room. Giving us a small preview of those meetings, he did say that many of his backs need to get leaner this summer. Held plans to hammer the game plan home for the summer. What his players eat on the weekends matters. His guys need to be out running and sweating when its 95 degrees out.
The running back group has had an up-and-down spring, but the standard remains the same for Held. He has a lot of guys that this is their first real offseason but that can’t be an excuse for not getting the job done. His players know the questions out there about the group and are embracing the challenge.
“Every day I come out here I’m earning my money, there’s no doubt about it,” Held said. “Because I don’t have guys that they know everything. So, every practice I’m coaching every single second of every minute. Every time I’m on the field. You can tell my voice is gone. I don’t sleep at night because I’m just wound up the whole day. I want to get after it every time I’m out on the field.”
People will be ready to make judgements on the running backs at Nebraska after getting a look at them this Saturday. It sounds like we are a long way from settling the position pecking order. A summer looms with opportunities for someone to take hold of the available carries.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.