LINCOLN — Nebraska’s most uncertain position group showed well in front of 36,406 in Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Nine running backs had a carry as the White team beat the Red 21-20.
Running backs coach Ryan Held said Wednesday that most of the running backs were out for at least a few practices this spring — a consequence of having the most physically taxing spring thus far in Scott Frost’s tenure, according to the coach.
Held and Frost need one of the running backs to take the starting role. Judging from the spring game, the competition is close and fierce.
Marvin Scott, a second-year freshman, rushed for 75 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown. The 5-foot-9, 210-pounder had a breakaway 39-yard run.
This spring, he tried to emulate other successful Husker backs.
“Just working on breakaway speed, been working on my strength, too,” Scott said. “Because I know Devine Ozigbo, he was big, and trying to work on my acceleration like Ameer Abdullah.”
The Floridian said he is constantly thinking about the competition in his position group, and it inspires him to work harder.
True freshman Gabe Ervin, who graduated high school early to enroll at Nebraska, is also in the battle. He rushed for 57 yards on 12 carries for the Red team and has been impressing his coaches all spring.
“I feel like I played pretty good,” Ervin said. “I did what I could do with what was presented to me in the offense. The offense was clicking.”
The 6-1, 190-pounder also thrives on competition.
“This is the way I want it,” Ervin said. “That’s why I picked Nebraska, to compete against high-level people just like me. I just got to come to work every day and do what I do.”
Ronald Thompkins averaged 8 yards per carry with 32 total yards, and walk-on Zach Weinmaster had a carry for 7 yards for the Red team.
On the White team, walk-on Jaquez Yant stole the show to the tune of nine carries for 63 yards. He punched in a 21-yard touchdown in the north end zone as the crowd roared.
Fellow walk-on Isaiah Harris rushed for 52 yards on five carries. The 5-9, 190-pound freshman from Millard South also broke free for a 29-yard touchdown run.
Nebraska also hopes to utilize second-year freshman Sevion Morrison, who has battled injuries. On Saturday, Morrison displayed his versatility with 38 yards on eight carries and a 12-yard catch.
Third-year freshman Cooper Jewett, who has become accustomed to showing off in spring games, had an 18-yard carry to highlight his four-carry, 24-yard day.
“Watching them (running backs) the second half, and seeing some tackles broke and some guys running through contact,” Frost said, “I thought that was a real positive.”
Despite the production, there were several backs who didn’t play due to injury, including third-year freshman Rahmir Johnson and Markese Stepp, a transfer from Southern California who NU expected to be the No. 1 back before a foot injury.
And for many of the young backs, Saturday was their first experience playing in front of fans in Memorial Stadium.
“We have the best fans in the country in my opinion,” Ervin said. “But it was just a good first impression.”
The good first impression seemed mutual.