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Most Intriguing Huskers: No. 19, sophomore RB Markese Stepp
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Most Intriguing Huskers: No. 19, sophomore RB Markese Stepp

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Nebraska football practice, 4.17

Injured Nebraska running back Markese Stepp watches the action during a football practice at Memorial Stadium on April 17.

Steven M. Sipple, Parker Gabriel and Chris Basnett gather to discuss the latest in Nebraska's search for an athletic director and the two weeks since Bill Moos departed NU. Before that, though, the guys talk through a newsy stretch.

As the countdown to the beginning of Nebraska’s preseason camp continues, the Journal Star is counting down its annual list of the 30 Most Intriguing Huskers.

The list, as always, is not about the 30 best players or the 30 most important players, but is based instead purely on intrigue. We’ll cover breakout candidates, new faces, old heads and more. The list tends to skew toward youth and inexperience because, well, those types of players are intriguing. But there are more than a few regulars, too.

No. 19: RB Markese Stepp, so.

What exactly makes Stepp so intriguing?

Well, start with the fact that if healthy, the 6-foot, 235-pound transfer from USC is a leading candidate to open the season as a starter. 

His health status, however, is also part of what makes him intriguing. He missed all but two practices this past spring because of a foot surgery that Nebraska's team doctors identified the need for. However, it's expected that he'll be ready for preseason practices starting late this month.

"I think I got a solid evaluation (this spring) on everybody except for Markese, who only practiced twice. But even in those two practices, and they were in helmets, I saw some good stuff,” Husker running backs coach Ryan Held told the Journal Star last month during a Big Red Blitz stop in Broken Bow. 

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Seeing "good stuff" from Stepp was expected upon his arrival on campus in January. After all, he spent three seasons at USC — redshirting in 2018 before seeing consistent playing time the past two years.

In 2020, he rushed 45 times for 165 yards and tied for the team lead with three rushing touchdowns. The Trojans' overall production in the run game dropped to 3.2 yards per carry from 3.9 in 2019 under second-year offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, who runs the Air Raid offense that prioritizes passing.

Stepp was part of a three-man rotation at running back that split carries roughly evenly, and each averaged between 3.7 yards per carry (Stepp) and 4.6. The Trojans played only six games in 2020 due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions and the Pac-12’s shortened season. USC elected not to play in a bowl game after a 5-1 regular season.

In 2019, Stepp had 48 rushes for 307 yards (6.4 per carry) and three scores.

A native of Indianapolis, Stepp was considered a four-star prospect out of high school. 

Steven M. Sipple

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Spring post-op: Catch up on our position-by-position look at where the Huskers stand after spring

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The series continues with offense this week. No better place to start than quarterback, right?

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NU's safeties benefited from the extra year of eligibility, as Marquel Dismuke and Deontai Williams both return for sixth seasons.

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Cam Taylor-Britt has ascended into a face-of-the-program type player and perhaps the best player on the roster. But is there enough depth?

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Luke Reimer, Chris Kolarevic and Nick Henrich are a strong trio at the top. But this is the Big Ten. Who can be the fourth man? The fifth? 

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You followed along all spring. Who's your standout player from the outside linebacker group? How about the "stock-riser?" Compare notes with us.

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Defensive line coach Tony Tuioti said he has at least six players he can trust and potentially seven, but it’s unclear if any of NU’s next wave of players will crack the rotation this fall.

Contact the writer at ssipple@journalstar.com or 402-473-7440. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

 

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