Nebraska Cornhuskers running back Gabe Ervin Jr running down the field, avoiding Northern Illinois defenders at Memorial Stadium.

Nebraska Football Spring Position Preview: Running Backs

The running back position has been something of a success for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in its historical success. Names like Mike Rozier, Ahman Green, Ameer Abdullah, Rex Burkhead and Roy Helu Jr grace the Huskers’ all-time rushing list. With that said, it’s been a while since Nebraska has had a dominant running back for a season. We would most likely have to go back to Abdullah in the 2013-2014 seasons. However, there is a possibility that the Huskers might have one for the 2024 season or for the future upcoming seasons. Here’s a look at the scholarship running back position group this spring.

Nebraska Football Spring Position Preview: Running Backs

Rahmir Johnson (Senior, Harlem, New York City, NY)

Rahmir Johnson is the only senior in the position group and 2024 will be his sixth season in Lincoln. Johnson was a member of former head coach Scott Frost’s second recruiting class at Nebraska and has been a contributing member since then. He spent 2019 as a redshirt and played in four games, rushing 21 times for 64 yards and a touchdown. In 2020, Johnson played in six games in his redshirt freshman season, rushing 8 times for 30 yards and a touchdown in the COVID-19-shortened season. 2021 was Johnson’s best statistical season. He played in the first 10 games of the season, rushing 112 times for 495 yards and four touchdowns while catching 16 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns. However, his season would be cut short against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

In 2022, Johnson’s role decreased but still played in 10 games on offense and special teams. He rushed 19 times for 85 yards. His best game came against the Iowa Hawkeyes, with 12 carries for 52 yards in the Huskers season-ending win. In 2023, Johnson played in three games before suffering a season-ending injury against the Northern Illinois Huskies. Johnson contributed the most on special teams with 102 total kick return yards, which includes a 63-yard return on the opening kickoff of the second half that led to a Husker touchdown against the Gophers. Johnson received a medical redshirt to return for his senior season in 2024.

Looking towards this upcoming season, it is expected that Johnson will continue to contribute on kick returns and will get some snaps on offense, especially in the passing game. As long as he can stay healthy, Johnson could be a key contributor in certain situations in 2024.

Gabe Ervin Jr (Junior, Buford, GA)

Gabe Ervin Jr’s career in Lincoln has been overshadowed by season-ending injuries, despite showing pure talent at the position. As a freshman in 2021, Ervin Jr started in two of the Huskers’ three first games. He had 37 carries for 133 yards and two touchdowns before suffering a season-ending injury against the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners. Ervin Jr. was the first true freshman running back to start for the Huskers in the modern era against the Illinois Fighting Illini. In 2022, he played in eight games rushing 20 times for 94 yards. An injury limited his playing time in that season, but Ervin Jr. didn’t have a lot of production when he was healthy. Now moving on to last season, Ervin Jr. played in three games before suffering a season-ending injury against Northern Illinois. He had more production in three games than he did in 2022, rushing 38 times for 196 yards and a touchdown before getting injured.

Looking towards this year, Ervin Jr. will for sure get playing time as long as he stays healthy. He has a lot of talent and has shown his ability to provide great production when he has been healthy. Ervin Jr. could play a big part in Nebraska’s offense in 2024.

Emmett Johnson (Sophomore, Minneapolis, Minn.)

Emmett Johnson played in all 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2023 and played a huge part in relief for injuries at the running back position a season ago. After the injuries to both Ervin Jr. and Rahmir, Emmett and Anthony Grant split carries for most of the remainder of the season. Emmett had 90 carries for 411 yards and two touchdowns and played a part in the Huskers’ No. 2 rushing offense in the Big Ten in 2023, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Based on his production last season, he will for sure get playing time in 2024 and will compete for the most carries this upcoming season.

Dante Dowdell (Sophomore, Oregon/Picayune, Miss.)

Dante Dowdell is one of the newest faces in the running back position group for 2024. Dowdell was a transfer portal pickup, who played in six games for the Oregon Ducks in 2023. He had 19 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown last season for the Ducks, where his best game was against the Portland State Vikings, rushing for 55 yards and a touchdown in the game. Before Oregon, Dowdell was a consensus four-star and top-200-ranked prospect according to Rivals, 247 Sports and ESPN. He was ranked as a top-10 running back prospect coming out of high school as well, with dozens of offers from top schools like Oregon, Florida State, Ole Miss, Penn State, Texas A&M and Auburn among others.

At Picayune Memorial High School in Mississippi, Dowdell rushed for 5,301 total yards with 65 touchdowns. He led his team to back-to-back MHSAA 5A state championships in his junior and senior seasons at Picayune. Dowdell’s best season came in his final year, rushing for a total of 2,165 yards and 31 touchdowns, averaging 8.4 yards per carry. He was selected to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, MHSAA 5A Mr. Football, first-team all-state honoree and a member of Team Mississippi in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game all in his senior year. Dowdell transferred to Nebraska with three more years of eligibility and has the potential to make a major impact on the Huskers offense. 

Kwinten Ives (Redshirt Freshman, Beverly, N.J.)

Kwinten Ives returns for his redshirt freshman season in 2024, after playing in four games in 2023. Ives has seen playing time on special teams so far, lining up as a kick returner. He did not log any returns in 2023 though. At Palmyra High School in New Jersey, Ives was one of the top running backs on the East Coast. In his junior and senior seasons, he rushed for a combined 3,055 yards and 49 touchdowns. Ives averaged 10.1 yards per carry and 160.8 yards per game in his final two seasons. He was a consensus three-star prospect and held other scholarship offers from Temple and UConn among others. On3 ranked Ives as a top-40 running back prospect in the country and was a top-10 prospect out of New Jersey. In 2024, he will compete for carries and most likely have the biggest impact on special teams. 

Main Image: © Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

5 3 votes
Do you agree with this article? Let's see your vote!
5 3 votes
Do you agree with this article? Let's see your vote!
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x