Rhule names Gabe Ervin Jr. Huskers’ starting running back

Published: Aug. 19, 2023 at 9:17 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule has been fairly transparent early on when it comes to naming starters at two major positions: quarterback and running back. Rhule tabbed George Tech transfer Jeff Sims as Nebraska’s QB1 when it was announced Sims would attend Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis. Rhule confirmed Saturday that joining Sims in the backfield will be sophomore Gabe Ervin Jr.

After struggling through injuries over the last two seasons, Ervin has put ten pounds on his six-foot frame while maintaining his elite speed, catching Rhule’s eye since he first arrived in Lincoln. “From the day I got here, I was like ‘Wow that’s what they’re supposed to look like,’” said Rhule after Saturday’s scrimmage. “He’s big. He’s powerful. He can run behind his pads. He runs inside zone, outside zone, power, counter. Anything you want to run.”

Ervin Jr. beat out Rahmir Johnson and last year’s starter Anthony Grant for the starting role. In 2022, Grant rushed for a team-high 915 yards, including five 100-yard or more games. Rhule’s main concern with Grant has been ball security.

”When the ball’s in his hands, Anthony’s elite running the football,” said Rhule. “Anthony, he just puts the ball on the ground too much. He’s fumbled the ball too much. And no matter how talented you are, if you fumble the football you can’t play for us. So we’re going to continue to work on it with AG. Had a good camp up until the last couple of days and sort of turned the ball over. But it’s been an issue.”

As for the other running backs, Rhule says Johnson will likely be the Huskers’ third-down back because of his receiving capabilities. Redshirt freshman Emmett Johnson is still in the running as a kick returner.