Ameer Abdullah has created a name for himself in the Big Ten as one of, if not, the best running back in the conference. After three seasons with the Huskers, he decided to forgo the NFL draft and return for his senior year, a decision that is likely to pay off at the end of the season once award ballots come into play. Already reaping the benefits of his decision, he is one of 48 top NCAA players named to the Paul Hornung Award watch list, and is slated to represent all Big Ten players at the conference’s annual media days luncheon.
Abdullah’s star shines brightly despite losing out on conference Running Back 0f the Year to Carlos Hyde. The first team, all-Big Ten player was the real winner with post season numbers nearly identical to his opponent: Hyde posted 138.8 yards per game, with Abdullah recording only 8 fewer yards per game, but more than 170 total rush yards (the former had 1,521, the latter 1,690 rush yards, respectively). In addition, Abdullah was ranked ninth in most rush yards in the league in 2013 and was only 161 yards shy of accomplishing 2,000 all-purpose yards for the season.
His recognition on a national level is finally beginning to be at par with his talent. Due to the Huskers’ poor performance last season, it was difficult for Abdullah to be seen as an elite running back, recording only nine touchdowns without supporting defense and a true freshman quarterback like Tommy Armstrong Jr. Injured quarterback Taylor Martinez and go-to receiver Quincy Enunwa are no longer with the team this season, which creates an excellent opportunity for Abdullah to continue to show the league exactly what he’s made of in his final season.
The final piece in completing Abdullah’s puzzle would be the Heisman trophy. His chances of being nominated for the award are likely, as is his chance to win it. Over the course of his career, he has netted 2,977 rushing yards on 549 carries and 19 touchdowns. With these numbers, he is on pace to pass Mike Rozier’s records for most career rushing yards (4, 780) and carries (668) during the upcoming season. If Abdullah passes Rozier’s records, he is sure to be seen as a legit contender. Thanks to an excellent 2012 and 2013, he could potentially become the first Husker with 1,000+ rush yards in a season- from the looks of the numbers he put up in 2012 (1,1137 yards) and 2013 (1,690 yards), he’ll be able to accomplish that feat before the 2014 season’s end.
For Big Ten football, 2014 is looking like the year of Ameer. His talents speak for themselves, but his teammates will need to provide support on the field to help them speak louder. Avoiding injuries, having an experienced quarterback, and stronger defense is crucial in ensuring Nebraska a top spot in Big Ten rankings. For the Huskers, the possibilities are endless if Abdullah’s teammates perform well around him, with a possible run at a championship in the not-so-far distance.
Have hope, Huskers, and hold your golden ticket close.