Running back Stephen Buckley has emerged as the top option in the run game, with star running back Venric Mark out for an undisclosed amount of time. But Mark isn’t sulking on the sidelines; he’s making sure his replacement is equipped with the knowledge to get the job done.
“He’s definitely a good coach,” Buckley said. “He’s been a big part of my growth as a running back because I didn’t play running back in high school. Venric has taught me a lot.”
Buckley rushed for 99 yards last week against Iowa and after the game, coach Pat Fitzgerald said, “It was pretty apparent on Saturday who the best running back was on the field for us. And that was Stephen Buckley.”
Buckley is poised to take the lead this week against Nebraska as well. Mark, who rushed for 118 yards against Nebraska last year, gave the redshirt freshman some pointers for playing the Cornhuskers.
“He just told me, just hit a seam when I see it,” Buckley said. “Once I see it, just hit it early and go, no hesitation.”
Mark has also taught Buckley the value of patience—sometimes a challenge for young, eager players who are getting their first opportunity in college football.
“Patience with my footwork and patience with waiting on a seam to develop,” Buckley said. “That’s definitely one of the biggest things he’s taught me.”
Buckley will be particularly valuable if he is able to turn the Wildcats’ tide on third down, which Fitzgerald said is the key to the game against Nebraska. At this point, NU is converting only 43 percent of its third downs.
“Third down conversions and touchdowns (matter more than speed),” Fitzgerald said. “I’m not one of those guys that’s really cool and is a tempo clinician in the offseason. I don’t think that that matters. I think what matters is if we can get the guys to execute cleaner and pick up third downs, continue drives and score touchdowns.”