Husker spring roster analysis: Running backs

Devine Ozigbo has the most career production of any of Nebraska's I-backs with 621 rushing yards and six touchdowns over his first two seasons.

The Nebraska football team will return to work on Tuesday after taking a week off from spring drills. With the Red-White Game looming on April 15, Mike Riley and his staff have only 20 more days before the curtain lifts on one of the country’s best-attended spring games.

Below is a breakdown of the running backs that Reggie Davis has been working with this spring. You can also check out analysis on the quarterbackswide receivers/tight endsoffensive linedefensive linelinebackersdefensive backs, and special teams.

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THE VETS

Nebraska won’t have a senior I-back in 2017, and lost tons of experience at the position with Terrell Newby departing. Devine Ozigbo, Mikale Wilbon and Tre Bryant all return after seeing previous time at the position, but the NU staff has been looking for somebody to create some separation during spring practice — and prove they can be that every-down and complete player. Ozigbo has the most money in the bank with 621 rushing yards and six touchdowns over his first two seasons. It was Wilbon who was drawing the praise of Davis just before the break, however, and the 5-foot-9, 195-pounder could benefit from the backs maybe seeing more screens and check-down throws as new quarterbacks take over the offense. Luke McNitt returns as the No. 1 fullback.

CALL FOR BACKUP

Nebraska also has Austin Rose, Adam Taylor and Wyatt Mazour among its pool of I-backs. Riley was complimentary of Mazour two weeks ago, joking that the former high school quarterback had Danny Woodhead-like skills. The backups at fullback include brothers Harrison and Spencer Jordan.

WHO’S OUT, WHO’S IN

Newby didn’t throw up eye-popping career numbers — finishing with 2,239 rushing yards and 20 TDs — but was a glue guy on the offense who always had more of the staff’s trust than the others. Also gone from the backfield are Jordan Nelson and Graham Nabity, with Nelson a contributor on kickoff returns the last two seasons. NU will add I-back Jaylin Bradley and fullback Ben Miles before next season. Bradley ran for 2,915 yards and 50 touchdowns to lead Bellevue West to its first Class A state championship last fall. Miles is the son of former LSU coach Les Miles.

PROVE-IT PLAYER

You probably could pick any of the three I-backs, but Wilbon is the one who saw the least work last season. In fact, the former four-star recruit out of Chicago has just 24 rushing attempts through his first two seasons. But Wilbon said he feels more focused, confident and relaxed as he prepares for his junior year.

SPRING THINGS

» Nebraska has gone without a 1,000-yard rusher in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2005 and ’06. Ameer Abdullah had reached 1,000 three straight years from 2012 to ’14.

» Bryant finished the regular season with 13 carries against Maryland and 11 at Iowa, then suffered a hamstring injury in bowl preparations. His freshman season included 172 rushing yards and eight receptions, and also 23 kickoff returns for a 22.1-yard average.

» Ozigbo gained 308 yards in three nonconference games and the Music City Bowl, but just 104 against Big Ten opponents. Ozigbo missed two of those games and was limited in others because of an ankle injury.

» McNitt and Rose were among six walk-ons put on scholarship for the spring semester.

» McNitt had just two carries last season (both against Iowa) after Nebraska handed the ball to fullback Andy Janovich 42 times the year before.

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