Although the running back led the Huskers in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground last season, he found himself buried at the position on the depth chart.
First-year Coach Matt Rhule released the highly-anticipated roster lineup Friday morning, ahead of the season-opener at Minnesota. However, Anthony Grant wasn’t listed on the two-deep, which sent shockwaves across Big Red Nation. After all, Grant’s production has been noteworthy up to this point.
He’s coming off a promising campaign, and rushed for 915 yards, which were the most by a Husker since 2018. There’s no denying Grant started out on fire, with 191 rushing yards against Northwestern, 189 against North Dakota, 138 against Georgia Southern, and 136 in the victory over Indiana.
Grant even recorded 115 yards on the ground against the Golden Gophers. So it’s a head-scratcher as to why he’s third on the depth chart behind Gabe Ervin Jr., and Rahmir Johnson. Ervin has rushed for 218 yards and two touchdowns over the past two years. Johnson was Nebraska’s second-leading rusher in 2021, but only carried the ball 19 times last season.
It’s no mystery that the Huskers ranked 10th in the Big Ten, and 100th nationally in rushing offense in 2022. Nebraska only averaged 3.52 yards per carry. Which is why Rhule emphasized at Big Ten Media Days last month on how the offense was going to pound the ball more this fall. That means one individual may get the bulk of the carries, or Rhule will have a running back-by-committee approach.
Grant must’ve failed to capitalize on the momentum he generated as a junior, and didn’t impress Rhule enough through fall camp. The Big Ten is a very physical conference though. Grant has to keep that next man up mentality, despite where he’s currently at. It’s a humbling experience, going from being the cover boy on Athlon’s preseason magazine, to third on the depth chart. Still, the former juco will have to make the most out of his opportunities.
As of now all he can do is strive to be a harder runner, better blocker and supportive teammate. Emmett Johnson was listed as the No. 4 rusher behind Grant, so he’s going to be pushed for playing time. Johnson is also a Minneapolis native, and will want some action during his homecoming.
Thursday’s matchup will be a great measuring stick for the Nebraska’s running back room, and a way for each rusher to show his value to the offense. Regardless, the running game will only go as far as the big boys up front will take it. If the offensive line can provide efficient blocking at the point of attack, the Huskers should be able to move the chains in the trenches, and on short-yardage situations.
Grant will need to make a statement whenever he touches the pigskin, including catching passes out of the backfield. By doing that, he’ll gain ground and work his way back up the depth chart as the season progresses.