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Three observations after the Huskers land a commitment from USC RB Markese Stepp
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Three observations after the Huskers land a commitment from USC RB Markese Stepp

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USC running back Markese Stepp warms up before the Pac-12 championship game against Oregon on Dec. 18 in Los Angeles.

Nebraska on Tuesday added a commitment from USC transfer running back Markese Stepp. Here are three observations following the addition:

1. Nebraska was likely going to jump into the market for a Dedrick Mills replacement if the senior decided to enter the NFL Draft (which he did Tuesday), but this isn’t necessarily a simple one-year holdover situation.

Stepp has three years of eligibility remaining, thanks to the extra season granted to all players by the NCAA.

He hasn’t been used as an every-down back so far in his college career — and it’s no guarantee that’s what his role will end up being in Lincoln — but he’s a tough-nosed runner.

Stepp averaged 3.7 yards per carry this fall in six games for USC, but the Trojans only averaged 3.2 per rushing attempt as a team. For his career, Stepp has 100 carries and averages 5.1 yards per attempt. He also added three catches for 28 yards and will need to show he can catch the ball out of the backfield in order to have a big role at NU.

For example, Mills was rarely used in the passing game at Garden City (Kansas) Community College or Georgia Tech, but had 27 receptions over two seasons at Nebraska.

2. The Huskers’ young backfield has competition.

Stepp will join a Ryan Held-led position group that is promising but young. NU got its first live look at redshirt freshman Ronald Thompkins and freshman Marvin Scott this fall, and actually got more production out of redshirt freshman Rahmir Johnson during his four-game redshirt season in 2019 than in 2020.

Freshman Sevion Morrison is highly thought of by the staff, but did not see any playing time during the 2020 season due to a combination of injuries and COVID-19 protocols.

That group overall combined for a modest 37 carries, 116 yards and a touchdown in eight games.

Stepp will be on campus for the spring semester, as will incoming freshman Gabe Ervin, who is fresh off a Class 6A state championship run with Buford High in Georgia.

3. When Nebraska players start filtering back onto campus this weekend, the offense is going to look a little bit different personnelwise than it did on the field against Rutgers.

Gone are Wan’Dale Robinson and Mills; three offensive linemen with extensive starting experience in Matt Farniok and Brenden Jaimes (NFL) and Boe Wilson (transfer); and tight end Jack Stoll (NFL).

In are transfers Stepp and receiver Samori Toure; plus a big group of midyear freshmen that is set to include three new offensive linemen; tight ends Thomas Fidone and James Carnie; wide receiver Latrell Neville; Ervin; and quarterback Heinrich Haarberg.

The first 3½ weeks of the offseason have been plenty busy and the next few figure to be as well.

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Husker football reporter

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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