Nebraska football: Dante Dowdell will make serious case for RB1

Sep 2, 2023; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Dante Dowdell (24) breaks a tackle to
Sep 2, 2023; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Dante Dowdell (24) breaks a tackle to / Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

A year removed from having zero running backs hit the 500-yard mark, Matt Rhule and Nebraska football are looking for a boost. Sure, the Cornhuskers still averaged over 175 yards per game on the ground in 2023, but having a true lead back will alleviate some of the pressure on Dylan Raiola.

The Cornhuskers do return Gabe Ervin who missed most of last season with an injury which means he could likely be the starter when the season begins. He is entering his fourth year with the program and was off to a strong start in 2023 before going down with a season-ending injury in September.

Rahmir Johnson is also back as the likely backup to Ervin after rushing for 65 yards on 12 carries in three games last season. Not a huge sample size, but he looks to have some explosiveness.

But in order to help with the workload, Rhule went out and landed former blue-chip recruit and Oregon transfer Dante Dowdell. He was the No. 6 running back in the 2023 recruiting class, per the 247Sports Composite, and he rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries as a true freshman. There's a reason he was offered by nearly 30 teams out of high school and he should be able to contend for the starting job right away in 2024.

Actually, he probably should be the starting back.

We've seen what Ervin can do. He's a solid backup as he's never rushed for over 200 yards in a single season in his career (granted, he missed nine games last year) and he has only averaged over 5.0 yards per carry once and it was in just three games. Johnson also looks to have a limited ceiling.

Dowdell, on the other hand, feels like the kind of player who can burst out and become one of the best in the country if given a consistent workload.

Am I predicting Doak Walker for Dowdell? Obviously not, but he has the frame, speed, and strength to become a workhorse back and rush for over 1,000 yards per season. I think that'll start in 2024 as a sophomore -- and it should.