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One Husker running back will get most of the carries. But who will it be?
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One Husker running back will get most of the carries. But who will it be?

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Evan Bland and Jimmy Watkins recap Tuesday availability

LINCOLN — Offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said Tuesday that Nebraska still seeks a single running back to take the “bulk of the load” in Saturday’s game against Illinois. Lubick intimated that the Huskers have identified a starter but won’t name him yet.

Lubick said that player can take anywhere from 20 to 26 carries. Running backs coach Ryan Held said whoever starts Saturday may not be the guy who starts later in the season. Production will count.

“We’re going to trot out the running back, whoever that is, and that guy, he might be the starter the rest of the year, he might be half the year, you just don’t know,” Held said. “It’s all about production.”

Markese Stepp, a USC transfer who missed all of spring camp with a foot injury, has made the progress Held wanted to see in training camp to put him in the mix for playing time.

“He’s worked really hard, and I feel really good where he’s at and I just think he’ll keep getting better,” Held said. “But I’m starting to see what I need to see consistently, which is good.”

NU running backs who haven’t played in a collegiate game — such as Sevion Morrison, Gabe Ervin and Jaquez Yant — will have “rules” that guide their pass-blocking assignments that otherwise may be new to them.

Held is pleased with the work NU backs have done in camp — and senses a chip on their shoulder based on questions surrounding the position group — but knows game day is the key proving ground.

“You don’t get to hit reset, you don’t get the play again, there’s no ‘my bads,’ it’s for keeps,” Held said. “It’s in the history books. We’ve got to have guys who understand that every play matters. We don’t get hit the ‘oh, run the play again if we mess up.’ No. You’ve got to produce on that play.”

More quick hits from Tuesday's interviews with players and coaches:

» Another ongoing position battle is the starting corner spot opposite Cam Taylor-Britt. Quinton Newsome and Braxton Clark are “fighting it out” for the job, and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander indicated that defensive backs coach Travis Fisher would prefer to rotate corners if and when he can.

» Lubick said NU quarterback Adrian Martinez improved his body over the summer to the point he never gets tired in camp and “pushes the tempo” in practices.

» Receiver Oliver Martin has not missed a single practice rep since his arrival last year, Lubick said.

» Chinander said NU coaches have watched film of Appalachian State’s offense, among others, to get a feel for what Illinois might do. Illini offensive coordinator Tony Petersen worked at Appalachian State last season, and at Missouri, East Carolina, Louisiana Tech and Marshall since 2010.

» Punter Daniel Cerni has been making progress now that he has a fuller understanding of the game, according to kicker Connor Culp. The Australian arrived last summer knowing virtually nothing about American football.

“He was wanting to run with the tight ends,” Culp said. “You’re here to punt the ball, don’t overcomplicate things.”


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