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July 26, 2011

Fall camp preview: Running back

Heading into the 2011 season there is quite a bit of excitement about the running back position and some of the young fresh faces that will join the team when camp opens in August. Which young backs will emerge in August to compliment veterans like Rex Burkhead and Tyler Legate?

Here's an early look how things might shake out at the running position when the Huskers open up fall camp in a couple of weeks.

Biggest question: Which young backs will emerge?
It's pretty clear that Nebraska's backfield will be led by veterans Rex Burkhead and Tyler Legate, but after that there is still quite a bit that needs to be figured out. NU will bring in a trio of talented freshmen running backs in Aaron Green, Braylon Heard and Ameer Abdullah, to go along with Alabama transfer Mike Marrow. Between this group all bets are off with how many of them could see the field in 2011. Each one brings a different skill set that could be utilized either in the offense or on special teams in the return game.
What we know right now: Strong leadership at the top
Coming out of the spring both Legate and Burkhead were the vocal leaders of Nebraska's offense. Without Roy Helu in the fold, Burkhead is going to be counted on to shoulder 250 to 300 carries in 2011 as NU's main workhouse back. New offensive coordinator Tim Beck has also said he plans to incorporate the fullback more into his system, which should get Legate on the field in several key situations.
Fresh fall camp faces: Green, Abdullah, Marrow and Heard
No position group will bring in more fresh camp faces this August than running back. Heard, Green and Abdullah will give NU a much needed upgrade in the speed and athleticism category, while Marrow figures to compete for time as a short yardage and goal line specialist. The reports out of summer conditioning have been strong on Green, Abdullah and Heard. It should be very interesting to see how Beck utilizes them in camp.
Early camp prediction
Obviously Burkhead is going to get his 20 to 25 touches per game, the question now remains how Beck wants to divide up the other touches. There is going to be a real chance for either Heard or Green to be the back-up to Burkhead, while Abdullah fits more of an all-purpose role both as a receiver out of the backfield and a return specialist. You also have to think Marrow can compete for a short yardage type of role to give NU a change of pace back. Another name not to count out is senior Austin Jones, who came out of spring ball as the No. 2 running back behind Burkhead. This race will definitely be fun to watch.

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