Nebraska Football: Getting to Know the Cornhuskers' Backup Running Backs

Patrick Runge@@patrickrungeCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2013

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 17: Running back Ameer Abdullah #8 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers tries to power throughout the grip of defensive back Michael Carter #23 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 17, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska won 38-14. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Nebraska football fans know that the I-Back is the signature feature of NU’s history. It is the I-Back that has defined Nebraska throughout the years, from Mike Rozier to Rex Burkhead. Even with the advent of the shotgun and the spread offense, Nebraska insists on referring to its primary ball-carrier as an “I-Back,” even when the I-Formation is far from the primary offensive set.

So it’s important to know about Nebraska’s I-Backs. Ameer Abdullah looks set as Nebraska’s starter at I-Back in 2013. But given Rex Burkhead’s injury last year, we all saw how important backup I-Backs are to Nebraska’s success. So, in the spirit of Stephen Colbert, it’s time for us to Better Know Your Nebraska Backup I-Backs.

Imani Cross

With the graduation of Rex Burkhead and the transfer of Braylon Heard (who some dope thought would be Nebraska’s starting I-Back in 2013), sophomore Imani Cross seems to have the inside track to be next man up in Nebraska’s backfield. Cross saw some time on the field in 2012, having 55 carries for 324 yards and seven touchdowns. He became the “short yardage” back given his size, which accounts for getting seven touchdowns in only 55 carries.

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But Cross has been preparing himself to be more than just a short-yardage guy. According to Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald, Cross has been losing weight in an attempt to become more of an every-down back. He played at 235 pounds last year, and his goal is to play at 217 pounds in 2013. According to Nyatawa, Cross played at that weight in high school, and was much more versatile and able to avoid the “short-yardage” box he found himself in last season.

The Redshirts (Plus One)

Nebraska does have three redshirt freshmen competing for playing time at I-Back. According to Nebraska running backs coach Ron Brown (from Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald), King Frazier (6’0”, 240 pounds) has “outstanding eyes” and a “great feel.” As an aside and certainly not said by Brown, he’s also in the mix for all-awesome-name team.

Also in the mix are Jordan Nelson (5’7”, 170 pounds), Graham Nabity (6’2”, 200 pounds) and sophomore Murat Kuzu (5’11”, 195 pounds). Kuzu will be held out of spring practice due to injury, but the others have an important opportunity to establish themselves before the new guys arrive. Speaking of which …

The Newcomers

Nebraska signed two 4-star running back prospects (according to 247Sports.com) in its 2013 recruiting class. While neither will be participating in spring practice this season, it is not inconceivable that both could be in the mix for playing time next autumn.

Terrell Newby (5’10”, 185) is the smaller of the two freshmen backs. He ran for 2,129 yards and 43 (!) touchdowns on 272 carries in high school. Newby was selected to play in the International Bowl, an All-Star game for under-19 players. His coach, USA national team director Garrett Shea, was quoted in MaxPreps.com as saying Newby “can float in and out of holes and then make exceptional cuts and accelerate immediately.”

Adam Taylor (6’1”, 210 pounds) ran for 2,755 yards and 44 touchdowns in his high school career. He was named as a first-team running back on the All-State Team in Texas 5A football, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini has shown he is not afraid to play freshman running backs, choosing not to redshirt any of the three talented freshmen he had in 2010 (Aaron Green, Braylon Heard and Ameer Abdullah). But given that lack of playing time likely led to two of those three (Green and Heard) leaving the program, it may be that Pelini re-thinks his redshirt policy this time around.

Either way, Nebraska looks to be well-stocked at I-Back in 2013.

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