Maurice Washington only arrived at Nebraska last week — but he’s already impressing
LINCOLN — If the hype surrounding Maurice Washington was loud before the running back joined the team last week, it’s become deafening after five fall practices.
And this time, the praise is coming from his teammates.
The true freshman — a top-100 recruit according to ESPN who signed with the Huskers over Ohio State, among others — is playing from behind after learning he was academically eligible last week. But offensive coordinator Troy Walters said Washington has done an “incredible job” considering he missed summer conditioning and is still learning the playbook.
“He’s special,” Walters said. “When he’s out there, he has another gear. He has some instincts that you just don’t coach. Guys have that or they don’t, and he has it.”
At 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, Washington has some weight to gain, Walters said. But he’s already making plays in practice, including flashes of explosiveness and agility during the portion of Wednesday’s workout open to the media.
Count his quarterbacks as impressed, too. Noah Vedral called him a “special player,” describing how hard it is for defenders to bring him to the ground even in basic contact drills.
“You’ll know that name,” Vedral said.
Said redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia: “He’s a phenomenal talent, I’ll put it to you that way. He’s definitely got a lot of shake and bake to him. He’s gonna be a really good tool this year.”
True freshman Adrian Martinez — a burner in his own right — said fans will learn quickly how quick and slippery Washington is.
“We’re really excited about him,” Martinez said. “I can’t say enough good things about the guy. I’ll try and just keep it down for now. He’s just fast, man. He can do a little bit of it all.
“He’s a damn good player. Husker Nation’s really going to love him.”
Running backs coach Ryan Held offered the most tempered compliments for the running back who ran for 1,253 yards and 10.2 yards per carry en route to a state title last year at Trinity Christian in Cedar Hill, Texas. But the assistant has also been wowed by the package of speed, vision and footwork that has the back 10 yards downfield in the blink of an eye.
“I tell you what, everybody’s excited about him,” Held said. “I have to do a good job, we have to do a good job of making sure he’s grounded and build him up because he’s still a freshman at 18 years old, away from home, and wasn’t here in the summer. He’s gotta know where to go at 5 o’clock and 6 o’clock.
“I’m cautiously optimistic he can help us this fall but I’m also not going to put unrealistic expectations on him to where everybody thinks he’s going to come out and be the Heishman Trophy winner Game 1. He’s got a lot of work to do just like everybody else.”