Fifth-year former running back Warren Long will play linebacker during the 2017 season, the program confirmed on Twitter on Tuesday.
Long, who received just one carry — for nine yards against Western Michigan — in 2016 before a broken hand cost him the remainder of the season, played some linebacker in high school according to his Hudl page. He also has significant experience as a tackler on special teams, where he has racked up 32 career tackles for the Wildcats and has one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Long has good speed for the position and has shown impressive physicality as a running back in short yardage situations too. The California native had a breakout 2015 campaign as Justin Jackson’s primary backup, running for 329 yards on 60 carries, good for 5.5 yards per attempt. He also added in five touchdowns.
Long, who stands 6-foot-0 and weighs 210 pounds per his NU Sports bio, was slated to be in a tight competition for carries in the upcoming season. Jackson and impressive sophomore-to-be backup John Moten IV both return, as do Auston Anderson and redshirt freshmen Jeremy Larkin and Jesse Brown.
At linebacker, there are openings for playing time with outside linebackers Jaylen Prater and Joseph Jones having exhausted their eligibility and middle linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. having declared early for the NFL Draft. Part-time starters Nate Hall and Brett Walsh return, but behind them the depth is young and inexperienced.