Dallas Colleges: Rex Burkhead

Early exit for Nebraska's Rex Burkhead

September, 1, 2012
If Nebraska is going to hold off Southern Miss on Saturday, it's going to have to do so without star running back Rex Burkhead.

The senior left the game in the first half with what is being described as a sprained MCL in his left knee. Burkhead had three carries for 68 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown early in the game, before heading to the sidelines. He will not play again today.

Huskers fans hold their breath and hope that the injury is not a serious one that will force Burkhead to miss significant time this season. Nebraska liked its depth in the backfield behind Burkhead going into the year. That depth is being put to the test in Week 1.
This week, Nebraska launched a website for RB Rex Burkhead to promote him for the Heisman Trophy and other awards. Burkhead, a Plano High graduate, doesn't need a lot of extra publicity. His play every Saturday says all you need to know.

Which is why he's ranked No. 2 on the ESPN.com Big Ten rankings.

No. 2: Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska, senior, 5-foot-11, 210 pounds

2011 postseason rank: No. 10

2011 numbers: Ran for 1,357 yards on 284 carries, with 15 touchdowns. Also caught 21 passes for 177 yards and two scores.

Why he's here: Burkhead erased all doubt last year that he's one of the best running backs in the country. He finished third in the Big Ten in rushing and was a first-team All-Big Ten performer. More importantly, he was, and is, the heart and soul of the Huskers.

What makes Burkhead special is that he approaches every carry as if his scholarship money depends on it. No one runs harder. While he may lack signature highlights, it's the compilation of effort that impresses. The lasting images of his 2011 season included his fourth-quarter heroics against Ohio State in a record-setting comeback and his school-record 38 carries in a tireless performance against Iowa.
Rex BurkheadAP Photo/John RaouxRex Burkhead may not be flashy but he's one of the Big Ten's most consistent and valuable players.
Even if the weather had cooperated Saturday, Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead wouldn't have received much work in the spring game.

Burkhead, a Plano product, has nothing to prove to his coaches, to his teammates or to the tens of thousands of Huskers fans who would have been in attendance. If there's one player who doesn't cause angst in that football-crazed state, it's Burkhead, who earned first-team All-Big Ten honors (coaches and media) last fall after rushing for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns. While Bennett and I could do a poll on Nebraska's most popular player, I think we'd be wasting our time and yours. The guy they call "Superman" would win in a landslide.

But Burkhead's name doesn't resonate nationally like it does in Nebraska or within the Big Ten footprint. It's puzzling for those who watch him play, like the Omaha World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht, who recently wrote about Burkhead's uphill climb for Heisman Trophy consideration. It's a topic I've been asked about several times on Nebraska radio stations in recent months, and one that will continue to be explored as the 2012 season approaches.

Barfknecht makes a convincing case for Burkhead, calling him "the most valuable offensive weapon at Nebraska since quarterback Eric Crouch did it all in 2001 while winning the Heisman." Anyone who watches Burkhead can appreciate his approach to the game, his consistent performances and his value to Nebraska's offense. He's also a star off of the field.

He has shown versatility, durability and reliability throughout his career.

But that's part of the problem, at least when it comes to national perception.

From Barfknecht's story:
His Heisman problem is that in today's Look-At-Me Generation, guys like him don't get many looks. ... Others will argue that Burkhead won't have the sexy plays -- those signature "Heisman moments" -- of other candidates. His long runs at Nebraska have been 34 yards as a freshman, 33 yards as a sophomore and 52 yards as a junior. As for 100-yard games, he has 10 in his career with a best of 170 yards last season at Wyoming.

This is an unfortunate truth about the Heisman race. It's a national award in every sense, and national name recognition is invaluable. Being an elite player is only part of the way to gain serious consideration.

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesBurkhead may need some Denard Robinson-type games to garner some national attention.
It helps to be on a nationally elite team, as Crouch was in 2001. It helps to have a signature moment replayed over and over on "ESPN College GameDay" or "SportsCenter." It helps to be known as exciting or explosive. It helps to have a huge performance in a game that resonates around the country. It helps to have a unique back story, or a catchy nickname.

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson reflects many of these qualities. He hasn't been as consistent as Burkhead, or Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011. But Robinson's name resonates nationally. President Obama knows who he is. Every Heisman voter knows who he is and what he can do. They've probably seen his past two performances against Notre Dame. They've definitely seen his electrifying runs. They know about the shoelaces. The 15 interceptions he threw last year? Meh.

It's why Robinson still could be the Big Ten's top Heisman candidate entering the 2012 season. If not, he's 1A next to Ball. Robinson undoubtedly will be at or near the top of the Heisman watch lists if he delivers a big performance in Michigan's opener against Alabama.

Ball should have less trouble getting noticed this season than he did in 2011. Despite impressive performances from the get-go, he was overshadowed by teammate Russell Wilson. Only when Ball began closing in on Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season touchdowns record did he start gaining traction for the Heisman. While he finished a distant fourth in the Heisman voting, he became a name voters know entering this year's race.

Is there hope for Burkhead? Sure. He needs to announce himself early in the season. Nebraska's nonconference schedule lacks national appeal, but Burkhead can make a statement with a big performance in the Big Ten opener against Wisconsin. He'll need to outshine Ball that night in Lincoln. It wouldn't hurt to follow it up the next week with a big game at Ohio State.

He also would benefit if Nebraska gives the nation reason to pay attention. This isn't the Nebraska program Crouch starred for, and while the Huksers are talking big, they're not regarded as a national player. That might have to change for Burkhead to get the recognition he deserves.

"He's one of the top running backs in the country," quarterback Taylor Martinez said.

No one will dispute that in Big Ten country.

But to take flight nationally in the 2012 Heisman race, Superman needs a boost.

SMU, TCU, UNT backs join Doak Walker list

July, 15, 2011
The 51 preseason candidates for the 2011 Doak Walker Award presented to the nation's top running back were announced Friday.

Two TCU running backs made the list: Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley. SMU's Zach Line and North Texas' Lance Dunbar also represent DFW schools.

Texas A&M's Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael were also tabbed. Nebraska back and Plano product Rex Burkhead also appears.

Last season's recipient, Oregon junior and Texarkana native LaMichael James, returns to the watch list after leading the nation in scoring and rushing in 2010.

Semifinalists will be named Nov. 11, and finalists will be determined Nov. 21. The winner will be announced Dec. 8 on ESPN.

Huskers capitalize on reversal, OU answers

December, 4, 2010
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ryan Broyles thought he made Oklahoma's biggest play of the game, but Nebraska safety Courtney Osborne's knee disagreed.

Osborne hauled in an easy interception and returned it to the 11-yard line, but Broyles stripped it and recovered possession as both players went to the ground. Officials ruled he had possession, but the call was reversed after a review.

That gave way to Rex Burkhead, who threw his third touchdown pass in two weeks -- this one to Kyler Reed -- that had the Huskers on top big early in the second quarter.

Oklahoma answered with a touchdown on its next drive, though, and trails 17-7.

The pass from Burkhead was much-needed for Nebraska, whose quarterback, Taylor Martinez, had yet to complete a pass in four tries through the first quarter.

The Huskers' early lead should shift the entire game. Oklahoma won't abandon its run game, but it will look to pass a bit more than it did in the first quarter. Against the best secondary in the Big 12 -- and possibly the country -- that could be a dangerous proposition.

Not so much for the Sooners, who answered with a 49-yard bomb down the middle of the field to Kenny Stills. That's definitely a good sign for the Sooners, but a rare big play given up by the Blackshirts.

I'd be surprised if the Sooners hit another big play like that without breaking a tackle or benefiting from a miscommunication from the Huskers' secondary.