By at February 28, 2011 | 10:53 AM | Print

The 50 Huskers to Know returns for the 2011 spring season! We count down the players you absolutely have to watch heading into spring football, culminating with No. 1 during NU's spring break.

The spring list, remember, is about players who are currently in the program, with an emphasis on redshirt freshmen and sophomores who might not have played much yet; in the fall, you'll see a list with more projected starters and incoming contributing recruits.

Not included on this list is wide receiver Khiry Cooper, who spends the spring with the Husker baseball team.

No. 50 Running backs Collins Okafor and Lester Ward

It's now or probably never for these redshirt juniors who have made little on-field impact since their arrival in the fall 2008. Both were leapfrogged by Rex Burkhead, Tray Robinson and Austin Jones in recent years, but Robinson has transferred while three-year starter Roy Helu graduated. That leaves Ward and Okafor with a chance to earn playing time behind Burkhead. They really have one spring to make a lasting impression on new position coach Ron Brown before incoming freshmen Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah arrive in the summer.

Of the two, Ward has played more and perhaps has a better chance of playing. At 6-3, 225 he could be the power back NU needs now that Robinson left the program. He played sparingly in 2009, Ward has pretty good wiggle for a big guy, but he tends to run too high and without leverage.

Okafor is more of mystery. The Omaha Westside star hadn't played the game for long when he came to NU; maybe that's part of the problem. In the open field, Okafor is a smooth, impressive runner. He'll have to run better in traffic. With the offense changing gears, perhaps he gets it down and puts himself in position to play. We know this: Okafor briefly quit the program for a day or so in 2009. Had NU wanted to cut him loose, it could have. It welcomed him back with open arms. There must be a reason for that.

(Visited 4 times, 1 visits today)