Huskers prep for new look at running back, aim for defensive improvement
LINCOLN, Neb - After Matt Rhule broke the news that two of Nebraska’s top running backs (Rahmir Johnson and Gabe Ervin Jr.) would miss the rest of the season, the Huskers are looking into how to move forward, getting ready for Louisiana Tech this weekend. Additionally, the Blackshirts are a top rushing defense in the nation, looking for improvement as a whole.
When it comes to the offensive depth chart, Anthony Grant is set to be the bell cow, but the spots behind Grant bring questions. The current depth chart has Emmett Johnson as the number two back, and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield discussed how practice has gone, with a new back field.
“They [Grant and Johnson] both have their certain skill sets where they can do things,” Satterfield said. “They’re both talented, other than that, well have them run the ball, ask them to protect, and we’ll see what we can do on Saturday.”
With a lot of questions surrounding the running back spot, it opens up creativity for the offensive scheme. Wide receiver Billy Kemp IV caught his first touchdown of the season in Nebraska’s 35-11 win over Northern Illinois. He didn’t rule himself out as one to run the football.
“I’m here to do whatever,” Kemp IV said. “If they need me to take hand off’s, catch passes, block... I’m here to do whatever.”
Marcus Satterfield did mention that quarterback Jeff Sims had “his most active day yet” since Sims hurt his ankle against Colorado. On Saturday Heinrich Haarberg led the charge for Nebraksa under center, and Kemp and Satterrfield were both impressed.
“He looked pretty comfortable for his first start,” Kemp IV said. “I was proud of how he played, the team loved how he played, and he stepped up when his name was called.”
“I thought he had great energy, great tempo, he ran with reckless abdandonment,” Satterfield said. “He did a good job protecting the football… That’s a big deal. He's also a Nebraska kid starting a game in Memorial Stadium. Can't imagine how awesome that was for him.”
Nebraska is currently the second best rushing defense in the nation and the best in the Big Ten. However, they sit 29th in the country in total defense. Defensive coordinator Tony White says the defense is still improving and defensive lineman Ty Robinson says he’s not surprised by what the defense has accomplished.
“If we focus on the process of playing great defense, play in and play out, everybody doing their job, it shows up on the grass,” White said. “When it shows up on the grass, then the guys believe. And when the guys believe they put more feet to the grass of the process, and then, we’re able to look at the end of the season, if we’re a great defense we’re a great defense, but right now we’re an improving defense.”
“Nobody’s surprised,” Robinson said. “Throughout fall camp, we saw ourselves getting better and better, so, I think the confidence within us, if we keep it, there’s going to be up’s and down’s throughout the game, but if we keep the confidence going we have a pretty good shot at it."
Louisiana Tech enters at 2-2 on the year, falling to North Texas 40-37 in their last outing. This will be the final non-conference game of the year for the Huskers, before they welcome #2 Michigan next weekend to kick off Big Ten play.
Saturday’s game kicks off at 2:30 central time, 1:30 mountain time.