Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Young Husker Running Backs Working to Help Team Down the Stretch

October 26, 2021

Young players tend to make mistakes on the field. That’s part of putting them out there and every coach knows that. The Huskers have several position groups where they are leaning on inexperienced players. Running back is near the top of the list of places where Nebraska is most inexperienced.

The team began the year with true freshman running back Gabe Ervin Jr. as the starter. Sophomore Markese Stepp replaced him for one game after Ervin’s knee injury. The starter for the last five games at running back is Rahmir Johnson and he’s a redshirt freshman.

One player that hasn’t gotten a start but has made a big impact at times is Jaquez Yant. The Florida native has the Huskers’ season high game total for rushing yards from a running back this season. He rumbled for 127 yards against Northwestern. Since that breakout game Yant has 10 carries in the last two games. The last two weeks have been a learning experience for him.

“I think you come out against Northwestern and everything’s great. Everybody’s patting you on the back and how good you are,” running backs coach Ryan Held said. “Then you kind of get brought back down to Earth a little bit. I think with a young football player that has a lot of talent, you’re going to go through some of those swings. I think at the end of the day, until you go through those swings and experience the highs and the lows, you don’t know how to react.”

Yant has had good moments this season and also been inconsistent. Held feels that he’s a talented player with a bright future in Lincoln. The coaching staff has to continue to keep putting him in the best situations. Then he’ll be able to execute plays that can help the team.

There is a clear next step for Yant to see the field more. When he gets his chance he needs to see the call, line up, see where the cut might go and revert back to his training. That’s something talked about all the time in the running back meeting room. Yant has to continue working on the little things. Not switching the ball in traffic is an example, which he did earlier this season. Focusing when the lights are on during games is what keeps Sevion Morrison from the seeing the field more.

“It’s just a matter of focus and every play matters,” Held said. “You can’t be a little lackadaisical. I think that’s what the young players have to understand. When you go out there the game is on the line on that play. That play matters. Until you put them in those situations sometimes you’re going to have really good results and sometimes you’re not. Those are some of the growing pains with young backs.”

Each one of Nebraska’s young running backs work on the things they need to improve on. Even if it’s on their own, the work ethic is something Held is pleased with. As the stretch run of the 2021 season approaches the team will need more than Johnson to be productive.

“Now, I got to continue to get [Jaquez] Yant, Sevion [Morrison], [Markese] Stepp and those guys consistent,” Held said. “To where we have a number two and a number three guy that can go out there and really be able to help us down the stretch run and into the future.”

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