April 26, 2011

Spring grade out: Running back/Fullback



As the Nebraska football team moves closer to the start of summer conditioning, HuskerOnline.com continues our daily position grade outs of where things are at out of spring ball. Today we breakdown the running back/fullback positions and the positives and the negatives that happened during the four weeks of spring practice and we also preview what lies ahead.






















Overall spring grade: B


Nebraska has one of the better backfield combos in the Big Ten Conference with junior running back Rex Burkhead and senior fullback Tyler Legate, and that duo will likely be the driving force of the offense early in the season. After them, however, there are a whole bunch of unknowns. No other running back emerged as the clear backup to Burkhead, and it's looking like the Huskers will have to rely on at least one member of a trio of heralded incoming freshmen backs who will arrive this fall. As long as Burkhead is healthy, NU is set at running back. If he gets hurt, it's a completely different story.
Spring surprise: Legate's leadership


Not only did Legate break out with two touchdowns in the Red-White Spring Game, he also stepped up as one of the most vocal leaders of the offense over the course of the spring. Now in his fourth year with the program, Legate has been Nebraska's top fullback each of the past two seasons. As a result, he's elevated himself into a position where he's earned the full respect of his teammates. When the Huskers were struggling through wind sprints during spring ball, it was Legate who was leading the way and encouraging them the entire time. Between Legate and Burkhead, NU is loaded with leadership in the backfield.

Question that still needs answered: Who will provide depth?


As already mentioned, depth at running back is one of Nebraska's top concerns on offense coming out of spring practice. Even with Burkhead held out of the majority of the practice reps, no running back was able to take advantage of the increased work with the first-team offense and solidify himself as the clear No. 2. The Huskers even tried moving two receivers over to running back to try and create some depth, but question marks behind Burkhead are still as big as ever heading into fall camp. At this point, Austin Jones looks to top backup, but that title is hardly official nor set in stone.

What does the future hold at running back/fullback?


Obviously the hope is that the future of the backfield will be handed to the three incoming freshmen: Aaron Green, Braylon Heard and Ameer Abdullah. Between one or ideally all three of those backs, the Huskers are banking on finding the next star running back in line to not only backup Burkhead this season, but also take the torch from him when he eventually leaves NU. The good news is that all three freshmen are widely regarded as capable of making immediate impacts this season, and all three bring a variety of talents the Huskers could utilize in offensive coordinator Tim Beck's new system. The biggest hurdle at this point will be getting them ready to play Division I football by September.



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