April 27, 2010

Spring grade out: Running back

HuskersIllustrated.com continues our daily position grade outs of where things are coming out of spring ball, as today we breakdown the running back position and the positives and the negatives that happened during the four weeks of spring practice and we also preview what lies ahead.

Overall spring grade: B+

Everyone knew that running back would once again be the strength of Nebraska's offense this season, and the unit didn't do anything to change that opinion this spring. Senior Roy Helu is healthy once again, and he made some changes to his running style with the help of running backs coach Tim Beck that will help him make one cut and go and hopefully be more explosive through the line of scrimmage. Sophomore Rex Burkhead has continued the momentum he built up for himself last year and looks ready to go head-to-head with Helu for the No. 1 spot in the fall. Add in fellow sophomore Dontrayevous Robinson, who has had almost as good of an offseason as any of the backs, and the running back unit looks more than ready to carry the offense once again if need be.
Spring surprise: Robinson's progress

Though most of the hype at running back this spring went to the competition between Helu and Burkhead, Robinson quietly made some huge strides in his development. For one, he added more than 20 pounds of muscle, bulking up to 230 pounds. Combine that with his tough and physical running style, and Robinson could emerge as Nebraska's next short-yardage power back. While he'll obviously be used in other situations, Robinson could be the Huskers' go-to guy near the goal. He could also provide a great change of pace from Helu and Burkhead.
Question that still needs answered: Can they stay healthy?

The No. 1 problem with Nebraska's running backs last season was they were hardly ever healthy at the same time. Helu essentially dealt with one injury or another all season, and Burkhead missed five games with a broken bone in his foot. Even Robinson got dinged up during NU's win over Baylor, though he never missed a game because of it. Because of those durability issues, whether or not Nebraska's running backs can stay healthy enough to live up to their potential is a major question mark at this point. Fortunately, all three were able to make it through the spring without any significant setbacks, but whether that holds true when things heat up come the start of the season remains to be seen.
What does the future hold at running back?

Nebraska has more to work with than it could ask for at running back this season. Whoever ends up being the No. 1 back is basically a formality, as there's no doubt that all three will get their share of touches. With the Wildcat formation officially being introduced as a fixture in the Huskers' offense in last year's Holiday Bowl, there's a good chance two or maybe all three backs could be on the field together at the same time. In any event, Nebraska shouldn't have much to worry about this season when it comes to its running backs.

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