Upon being hired in December, Nebraska head coach Scott Frost and his coaching staff quickly set about the task of fortifying the Huskers’ skill positions.
There are many other areas of need on the roster, sure, and NU has landed class of 2018 signees and transfers at many of them.
The work done in the offensive backfield, though, is another indication that Frost and company are set on getting their high-flying offense up to speed as quickly as possible.
The Huskers think they might just have closed their class with a game-breaker, too.
That’s running back Maurice Washington, who announced that he signed his national letter of intent with NU on Wednesday afternoon as part of ESPN’s National Signing Day coverage.
"I laid out the pros and cons, and I really want to say that I did love Arizona State," Washington said on ESPN2 after announcing. "Talking with Coach Frost, we had a lot of good conversations. Coach (Ryan) Held and Coach (Travis Fisher). Just the fact that playing running back would be the best opportunity for me to get where I want to go.
"Maybe I can be the face of the program and we can take this and go get a (national championship)."
The Trinity Christian (Cedar Hills, Texas) standout rushed for 1,253 yards (10.2 per carry) and 15 touchdowns, and added 582 receiving yards (22.9 per catch) and nine more scores during his lone season playing high school football in Texas.
“Maurice is a phenomenal player,” Trinity Christian head coach and former NFL running back Aveion Cason said this week. “He’s a program-changer and he’s a playmaker. He’s an offensive coordinator’s dream because you can put him anywhere on the field. He’s a matchup problem."
His future tutor, NU running backs coach Ryan Held, agrees.
"He’s a very good player and he’s another guy that, he’ll get thrown in the fire to give him an opportunity to come in and make an immediate impact," said Held, one of several assistants, including defensive backs coach Travis Fisher and tight ends coach Sean Beckton, who recruited Washington. "I was pretty fired up when he put on the Nebraska hat, and that was a big win as a staff. There was a lot of hard work that went into him, just like all of our kids. Every kid is a win."
Washington began his high school career at King’s Academy, a private school in Sunnyvale, California, but left the school after rushing for 1,800 yards and 29 touchdowns as a sophomore. He transferred to a public school and football powerhouse, Oak Grove in San Jose, California, near his home, but was ruled ineligible because the move was deemed to be driven by football.
Then, Washington moved to Texas.
It didn’t take Cason long to realize what he had.
“I liked his size,” the coach said of the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Washington. “Then when I saw him run — we took him to a camp and he ran a 4.42 at a Texas A&M camp, I saw that and I was like, ‘Man, we’ve got something.’”
The moving around and admitted academic struggles at King’s Academy meant some of the schools that pursued Washington early in his career either lost track of him or worried about his ability to qualify. The latter part is something NU clearly feels comfortable with but will likely monitor through the spring.
"This has been a really hard journey, but Scott Frost said, 'We're going to be there for you no matter what you do,'" Washington said. "I just felt like there was a real connection there that's deeper than football and what I can do on the field."
Echoed Frost on Wednesday, "He’s going to fit in great. He can do everything that we would ask a running back to do in our system. He’s got a little work to do to finish academically, but we’re excited to get him here on campus."
The Huskers first were alerted to Washington when Cason called defensive backs coach and former NFL teammate Travis Fisher in December.
“I said, ‘Man I’ve got someone you’d love,’” Cason recalled. “So I sent him Maurice’s Hudl (highlights) and it was like 30 seconds and they were all on the phone. Him, Frost. It was over after that.”
Fisher, Held and other staff members swung through Trinity Christian as often as they could. By the time Washington visited on Feb. 2, the Huskers were in very good position.
"With the rules allowing us to go out once a week, it was fun to start and build the relationship with him a few weeks ago," Held said. "I just felt like it was growing and growing and growing and then once his family was able to get on campus, that was great to be able to spend 48 hours with them and really to see who we are since we could be around each other more."
Washington burst back onto the scene nationally Jan. 4 when he scored three touchdowns and took home most valuable player honors at the Under Armour All-American game in Orlando, Florida.
“I really believe Maurice is a three-year guy in college and he can play at the next level,” Cason said. “He has that factor, he has that work ethic. He’s always in the weight room, and if he continues to do that, he’s got a high upside.”
Held saw the way Washington lit up on the Memorial Stadium turf last weekend during his visit and couldn't help but envision what the future might look like.
"Maurice is a happy-go-lucky guy, he’s got a great personality and I think our fans will love him," he said. "When he put on his jersey and ran out on the field (during his visit) he was all jacked up. I know that when he’s getting 80-yard touchdowns, our fans are going to be real excited to see him operate."