Nebraska added a transfer Tuesday in former USC running back Markese Stepp. Three takes on the decision of the 6-foot, 235-pounder.
1. A downhill bruiser with the frame of Dedrick Mills. Stepp, who has three seasons left of eligibility, only had 505 career rushing yards in three years with the Trojans, but that’s because of several reasons. He was banged up at times, USC had a lot of good backs and the hiring of offensive coordinator Graham Harrell brought an Air Raid offense that diminished the role of running backs. At Nebraska, Stepp will be in an offense that promotes a downhill run game (when Scott Frost commits to it) and can use him out of the backfield. The best snapshot of what Stepp can do is found in a YouTube film series on Stepp’s play at Notre Dame in 2019, when he rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. USC’s offense somewhat resembles Nebraska’s at times, and fans will see Stepp is a straightforward bowling ball who does very little dancing. In other words, he looks a lot like Mills, with perhaps a little less speed and a little more nimbleness. Stepp also knows how to run in an offense like this. Understands the tracks of a zone play, knows how to run out of the shotgun, all that. He won’t need a nine-month learning curve.
2. So what about Mills? He’s moving on to the NFL. Nebraska wishes him well, and may have wished for him to return, but it was unlikely all along. Stepp’s eligibility is important with Mills leaving, because the Huskers don’t have a ton of experienced options. The bottom line: Nebraska needs more out of its running backs.
3. The production can’t end with Stepp. Nope. Especially when he had a season-ending ankle injury in 2019. NU needs two backs, preferably three, and it’s needed pronto. Mills was banged up for roughly half of NU’s games this season — missing two entirely — and the Huskers’ answer to his absence was often Wan’Dale Robinson, whom they no longer have. Whether it’s Marvin Scott, Ronald Thompkins, Rahmir Johnson, Sevion Morrison or the incoming Gabe Ervin, NU has to find another reliable, consistent, healthy back.