Washington faces legal battles but the absence of any new potential replacements speaks volumes
No matter the situation, Maurice Washington is a person of interest. Arguably the most dynamic member of Nebraska's offense not named Adrian Martinez, the running back's ability to be a threat on every play speaks for itself. Flip to a different lens and he’s made headlines because of a pending revenge pornography case in California along with being cited for possessing drug paraphernalia last week.
The Golden State native has supporters and detractors not only across the college football landscape but also within the borders of Husker Nation. Some would just as soon see the Big Red cut bait with the sophomore-to-be and push any potential future trouble to the side. Others are happy to wait for the legal process to play out. What speaks volumes about Washington’s future is the inaction on head coach Scott Frost’s part to get any other running backs onto campus.
Frost cannot afford to be short too many backs, especially ones that can impact a game like No. 28. When Dedrick Mills’ academic status was up in the air, keeping fresh names available via the transfer portal was crucial just in case plans fell through.
There will always be a need for a supplemental back to some degree because of how many plays Nebraska plans to run per game. Having to remove Mills from the equation also would've also meant the Huskers fell short in their efforts to find a replacement for Devine Ozigbo who offered a similar physical style. Fortunately, Mills jumped through all necessary hoops and is now in the university’s student database.
Nebraska's head man has been proactive this offseason in addressing needs via transfers. Joining the 2019 ranks are wide receiver Kanawai Noa and defensive tackle Darrion Daniels, previously of California and Oklahoma State, respectively. Thanks to his early inclusion, Daniels has made an almost seamless transition. On Tuesday, former Rutgers tight end Travis Vokolek announced his intentions to play for Frost and will sit out 2019 season. It's currently unknown what class (year) Vokolek will count towads in terms of scholarship allotment, potentially leaving room open for this year's roster.
While Noa pulled the trigger after the fact in May, learning how to be an effective receiver in Frost's offense doesn't have the learning curve Daniels faces under defensive coordinator Erik Chinander. Noa also knows how to handle his role, considering his 56 catches for 788 yards during his sophomore season with the Golden Bears.
If the Huskers want to bring in someone new, now would be the time to do it — as in this minute. That's only underscored with someone like former Oregon Duck Taj Griffin, who would require the filing of extensive paperwork which might not garner a ruling by the time South Alabama comes to Lincoln. Any transfer has all of about seven weeks to get on campus, learn the playbook, and become one with the culture.
Pitching playing time under Frost today would be like walking a tightrope for perhaps anyone but Griffin. Approaching Clemson's Tavien Feaster or Ole Miss' Eric Swinney with an opportunity to take snaps alongside Mills alone is a delicate mission. Unless Nebraska is ready to remove Washington from the roster and is playing things close to the vest — an improbable scenario — the Huskers couldn't offer much aside from hypotheticals.
While Frost isn't one to guarantee a certain number of carries, any back worth his salt knows Washington would have his place if he remains and Mills earned his. Barring the Big Red running the triple option, about the best a fresh face could hope for is one of those two to leave during the season a la Greg Bell in 2018. Someone who will roll those dice this close to the regular season would need to be desperate. The chances of Nebraska finding that among an available high-caliber player is nil.
Every day that passes without a brand-new Husker running back being introduced lends credence to the idea that Washington will be on the field come Aug. 31. No doubt on double not-so-secret probation considering the headaches he's caused off the field this year, but with a prime chance to help his team perform a significant rebound.