Nebraska football running backs coach EJ Barthel had a lot to say following practice on Tuesday, and there were a couple of things he focused on in particular. Dominant contact and lessons from the NFL was one of his bigger talking points.
He has been working with the running backs on dominant contact, and this was something that caught my ears. Many of the Big Ten running backs are very good at taking contact and powering right through it. This is something that Nebraska football has not done well in recent years, although it is not entirely the fault of the running backs.
Take for example Minnesota and Wisconsin. The physicality of their running backs has presented a challenge for Nebraska football over the years. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor was a perfect example of this. He quite literally ran through the Nebraska football defense, and punished them with his physicality. As a result, Taylor had some career games against Nebraska. Rodney Smith of Minnesota was another example. He ran all over the Nebraska defense, and did so and punishing fashion.
Barthel wants his team to be physical and this is something that they have really been stressing over the course of spring practices. Rahmir Johnson is a player that has been standing out to Barthel, and he praised the running back’s physicality, as transcribed by Husker247’s Brian Christopherson.
“… What people don’t realize about Rahmir is how tough he is. He’s really good in protection. He’s physical for a smaller back. He runs underneath his pads. And ‘dominant contact’ has been our theme and what we’re trying to instill in our backs. When we make contact we want to bring power with our pads and want to make sure we’re making a statement when we running the football. And Rahmir, surprisingly for small backs, he brings that power when he runs the ball.”
Dominant contact should serve Nebraska football well in the running game. It sounds like that’s the primary focus for the program. We’ll have to see how it translates to the football field, but the thought of a physical running back in the backfield for Nebraska is appealing to say the least. It is something that has been missing for quite some time now. That physicality could easily pay dividends.
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