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To get to know Detroit Lions second-round pick Ameer Abdullah, a running back from Nebraska, I sent five questions to Corn Nation, SB Nation's Cornhuskers blog. Here's a look at what they had to say about Abdullah:
1. Although he improved over the course of his career in this department, much has been made about Abdullah's fumbling issues at Nebraska. How big of a concern do you think this will be at the NFL level, and did something specific lead to such a high number of fumbles?
Keith - I am by no means a recruiting expert, but Abdullah was not a highly skilled running back coming out of high school. Abdullah had 310 total touches last season and had five fumbles. Joique Bell had 70 touches less and had the same amount of fumbles. I think the Free Press and the Detroit News have hammered on Abdullah hard enough. He has put in effort to not fumble. He also did not have a great offensive line blocking for him, not that Detroit has a much better line.
Ryan - Ameer Abdullah will be the greatest running back Detroit has ever had. I give you my personal guarantee. He will also be the prettiest.
Pat - The thing I love most about Ameer Abdullah is his willingness and ability to negate a weakness. Most of the glaring issues he had early in his career (i.e. fumbling) became virtual non-issues by the end of his career. There is not a more prepared player on the field. And coming from a team that often seemed wildly unprepared, that's no small feat.
Ranchbabe - I wanted to tell you that the reason for his fumbles (early in his career) were because the kid has cat-like reflexes and stays on his feet when mere mortals would go down (which he does). I decided to go look at video of his fumbles. I haven't gotten through them all but my pet theory got blown out of the water and I had to look for other reasons. In 2013 especially, Nebraska as a team had a terrible case of fumble-itis. Prior to the 2014 season, the coaches finally decided they should do something about it (sigh). Long story short -- practice drills and live-contact situations were devised and the situation improved. I suppose you could see a fumble blip again as Abdullah adjusts to the speed and power of the NFL game, but I would be surprised because "regression" is simply not in his vocabulary.
2. Despite only running a 4.60 40-yard dash at the combine, Abdullah has been described as a home-run threat. Does he play faster than the numbers may indicate?
Keith - His vision is what separates him from most backs. He is not an extremely fast runner, but he will fight and churn for yards and has higher top-end speed than Bell. He makes smart plays that make him look faster.
Ryan - Abdullah has a special weapon. Aside from being much faster and quick on his feet than one might think, he is also extremely beautiful. Opposing defenses will, again I guarantee, get lost in his eyes and miss tackles. Ameer is a really special player.
Pat - Everybody looks at his size and some of his big plays and assumes he's a burner. He will rattle off several big-ish plays, but seldom the big 60- or 70-yarder. He is, however, way more physical than people realize. His ability to finish runs is phenomenal. And aside from a freak injury against Purdue (a fumbled snap on which someone rolled up onto his leg), he's very, very durable, especially for someone like him who does not shy away from contact.
Ranchbabe - His game is not predicated on outrunning you but in making you miss and then having an explosive/decisive first step after he does (may I direct your attention to his combine-topping 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, vertical jump and broad jump). He has enough speed. He is also used to running for his life and shedding tackles behind the line of scrimmage. I don't know enough about Detroit's O-line to know if that will come in handy for you, but it's there if needed.
3. How did Abdullah perform in pass protection at the college level?
Keith - Abdullah had a few problems handling edge rushers. He tries to play big, but the whole offensive line fell apart. It is difficult to block people in the B1G when there are edge rushers such as Shilique Calhoun or Carl Davis. I doubt you see much of Abdullah on third down in passing situations. The last thing Detroit needs is Matthew Stafford getting hurt.
Ryan - When defensive linemen and linebackers and occasionally blitzing defensive backs get around the edge or break through the middle and see Ameer standing there, they immediately stop, almost as if in a trance. See, Ameer's beauty is out of this world and it makes other, basic, simple people's minds collapse into itself for a brief moment. He doesn't need to block because immaculate beauty protects him.
Pat - Ameer got shredded by a lot of fans for his performance against Wisconsin. Everyone knew he was injured (the freak play against Purdue mentioned earlier), but most people thought it would affect his running more than his pass protection. It affected both (as did the poor offensive line play). Because he could only operate off of one leg at that time, it seemed to impact a lot of things, including his pass protection. Because he's a high-effort guy, super tough and a quick learner, I don't think it will be as big of a problem as people think. It's hard to measure his ability in this facet since most of the time Nebraska looked to pass he was going to be a potential receiver. It was only against Michigan State and Wisconsin that he was asked to stay back so often.
Ranchbabe - Every instinct in Ameer has been honed to avoid and go around large humans coming at him. Watching him deliberately put himself into the path of said large humans -- to put it kindly -- is a bit mechanical. As others have pointed out, he wasn't asked to do it often and he didn't get much O-line help. The kid will soak in every bit of knowledge he can get and will work to turn that into a strength in his game. If your coaches want him to learn it, he will.
4. One of Abdullah's biggest strengths seems to be his ability to contribute as a receiver in the passing game. How did he do as a pass target at Nebraska?
Keith - When Tommy Armstrong could actually throw an accurate pass, Abdullah actually was pretty good. He is dangerous in the open field and can make people miss. Armstrong has a similar quality to Stafford in that he throws some god-awful passes that are aimed at God knows who.
Ryan - Ameer is so beautiful that balls fly directly to his hands because just like all human beings, footballs want to be held by Ameer Abdullah. Just so they can know what eternity feels like.
Pat - Pretty damn good. Someone with great lateral quickness should be allowed to catch balls out of the backfield as often as possible.
Ranchbabe - You will soon learn to watch for Ameer leaking out of the backfield and immediately start screaming at your TV for Stafford to throw to him. The "oh no!" look on the strong safety's face as he knows he's about to get juked out of his shoes, the linebackers won't get there in time and the cornerback behind him can't tackle... just frosting on the cake. A wonderful, tasty, it's-not-even-my-birthday cake.
5. What one play from Abdullah's career at Nebraska best exemplifies his abilities as a running back?
Keith - It would probably be McNeese State, yes an FCS school that we needed a 58-yard touchdown pass to beat.
Ryan - This video will sum it up for you. You can thank me later, Detroit. (Ed. note: Audio is NSFW.)
Pat - I wanted to say the McNeese State play as well because he basically decided he was winning that game by himself when the rest of the team couldn't. But that gets remembered because it produced an immediate result. The one I'm more fond of came in his junior season against Northwestern. Nebraska trailed Northwestern by three and faced a fourth-and-15 from its own 25-yard line with 32 seconds remaining. Abdullah caught a pass at the 33, shook off three tacklers and extended himself for a first down at the 40. That kept the drive alive and allowed Ron Kellogg's eventual Hail Mary pass to Jordan Westerkamp. Ameer basically extended Bo Pelini's Nebraska career with that play, which was pure effort and grit.
The play can be found at the 3:41 mark of this video.
Ranchbabe - Yes, both of the above. Another worth watching is the speech he gave to kick off Big Ten media days. This is a kid that has it all together.