June 16, 2024

Matt Rhule grateful for Dante Dowdell’s value to running back room

Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

Nebraska running back Dante Dowdell runs for a 49-yard touchdown during the third quarter of the Red and White Game Saturday April 27, 2024 at Memorial Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska’s running back room runs deep, and everyone wants carries, but that appears to be a good problem to have for Coach Matt Rhule following Saturday’s spring game.

With Rahmir Johnson and Gabe Ervin Jr., still sidelined with injuries, one Husker rusher made the most out of his opportunities and caught Rhule’s attention. After all, Dante Dowdell is coming off a promising performance after rushing for a game-high, 76 yards and two touchdowns Saturday.

His 49-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was arguably the most explosive play of the contest, and raised several eyebrows inside the Sea of Red. Even Rhule couldn’t believe the wheels Dowdell showcased.

“Today I saw a burst in him (Dowdell), I probably haven’t seen a long run from him in other scrimmages,” Rhule said. “It was great to see that from Dante, he’s had a good spring.”

The former four-star prospect is quickly making a name for himself in Lincoln after playing at Oregon last year. Dowdell appeared in six games for the Ducks as a true freshman, and rushed for 90 yards and one touchdown. However, he found himself buried on Oregon’s depth chart behind Bucky Irving and Jordan James, and left for greener pastures at Nebraska.

Now it’s turning out to be one of his best decisions to date, and Dowdell is clearly taking advantage of the situation. It’s no mystery that there’s a lot of talent in the running back room. Everyone has a unique skill set that they bring to the table, including Emmett Johnson, Kwinten Ives and Maurice Mazzccua, who all competed with Dowdell in the spring game. That’s why Rhule understands he’ll have to find ways to spread the wealth once Johnson and Ervin returns.

“It’s a deep room, and we’ll have to do a good job as coaches of figuring out what each guy does really well,” he said. “I was pleased to see some of the things Dante did, just a flash of burst that we haven’t felt this spring.”

Nebraska finished second in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game last season, and Rhule feels that’s going to be a recipe for success this fall. If the Huskers can limit the fumbles, they should be able to do some damage with their backs. Dowdell has tremendous size too, standing six-foot-two, and weighing 215-pounds. Not to mention he’s powerful enough to break tackles, and fast enough to outrun defensive backs.

Dowdell already hits the holes hard, blocks at the point of attack and catches passes out of the backfield. Rhule knows that versatility should bold well for him. Regardless, Dowdell was impressive in live game action, so Big Red Nation should expect Rhule to have him heavy in the rotation this fall.

“I saw a level of acceleration into contact, and that long run down the sidelines, so some really good things.”