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Most Intriguing Huskers: No. 9, freshman RB Jaquez Yant
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Most Intriguing Huskers: No. 9, freshman RB Jaquez Yant

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Nebraska football practice, 4.17

Nebraska running back Jaquez Yant recently earned a scholarship after a strong spring performance that saw him put himself in position to be part of the Huskers' backfield this fall. 

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. 30: Thomas Fidone, tight end, freshman

No. 29: Will Nixon, wide receiver, freshman

No. 28: Noa Pola-Gates, defensive back, redshirt freshman

No. 12: Damion Daniels, defensive lineman, junior

No. 11: Gabe Ervin Jr., running back, freshman

No. 10: Chris Kolarevic, inside linebacker, junior 

No. 9: Jaquez Yant, running back, freshman

Nebraska running backs coach Ryan Held refers to him as the "Yant-a-nator." 

That gets your attention, right?

It also gets your attention that, according to Held, Yant took the second-most amount of repetitions among Nebraska running backs during spring practice as Held's crew dealt with a spate of injuries. A native of Tallahassee, Florida, Yant practiced well enough to earn a scholarship after spending the 2020 season as a walk-on. 

And, yes, Yant's size — 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds — also gets your attention. Held said Nebraska coaches hope Yant's playing weight in 2021 will be in the mid-230s or even low 240s.

"He still knows the things he has to get better at," Held said this week on the Husker Radio Network. "He's just a big guy. So he has to make sure he continuously eats right and trains right. Then there's the mental aspect so we can count on him to be an every-down back and not just be a situational guy. He's embraced it. But he can't take a deep breath and (say), 'Oh, I've earned a scholarship and I'm satisfied now.'

"That's just one step. You have to continue to keep getting better and be hungry." 

Nebraska has another big back in USC transfer Markese Stepp (6-0, 235), who missed all but two early spring practices because of a foot injury.

Jaquez Yant

Yant

"He's good now," Held said. "He's really working hard this summer. He was very engaged in spring practice. He knew the plays. He was getting mental reps. He was in the meetings, obviously. That's a big part of it. We couldn't lose that opportunity even though he wasn't getting the physical reps." 

Held seems to be confident in his room overall.

"You have to have more than one back for various reasons just because it's a big-boy league," Held said. "It's a pounding. There's going to be an injury. There's going to be something that comes up. So you have to have depth there. We feel we have the numbers."

He hopes he has some running backs who can help on special teams.

"We have to be better on special teams," he said. "We have to get that fixed to help the football team." 

— Steven M. Sipple

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