There's a lot to like about Rex Burkhead. His production on the field is exceptional, even as defenses load up the box to stop Nebraska's option rush attack, but his work in the classroom and the community are also impressive. The 2011 CoSIDA Academic All-American earned national attention for his relationship with a young cancer patient who is among his biggest fans - and has done other service work for which he's received no special notice, which is probably just fine with him.
The Dallas Morning News' All-Area Offensive Player of the Year as a high school senior in Plano, Texas (1,762 rushing yards, 28 touchdowns) brought his game to Lincoln instead of staying in the Longhorn State. As a true freshman, he averaged six carries over the first five games, but then suffered a foot injury that cost him five games. However, he returned for the last month of the season, hitting the 100-yard mark exactly against Colorado and finishing with 346 yards and three scores for the year. His workload also increased as his sophomore year wore on (two starts while playing in all 14 games, 951 yards, seven TD) and he became a part of the passing game (15 receptions, 148 yards) while garnering honorable mention All-Big 12 honors. He graduated to first-team All-Big Ten in the Huskers' first year in the conference, covering 1.357 yards and scoring 15 times (with 21-177, 2 TD receiving). Burkhead dealt with injuries his senior year, and only played in eight games. He carried the ball 98 times for 675 yards and five touchdowns. He also added 11 catches and two receiving touchdowns.
Slasher who uses his foot quickness to find his way through traffic to move the chains. In one-back or two-back sets, can start with the flow then cut back into a running lane, spinning through trash on his way to consistent four or five-yard rushes. His lateral quickness comes into play when penetrating defenders look to corral him; somehow he finds a way to cut left or right to run away from their waiting arms. There's no questioning his toughness, carries the mail 30 times a game and gives great effort trying to use his good lean to plow through arm tackles for extra yardage. Not used as a receiver very often, but his solid hands, quickness and agility will make him a valued weapon in the passing game. Those hands make him a solid safety valve punt returner, as well, even if he hasn't yet shown explosiveness in that duty.
Not the most powerful of backs, NFL defenders will stone him at the point of attack more regularly than their college counterparts because of his average lower-body strength. Leggy runner who can look out of control at times, though he usually manages to keep his balance. His pass protection form is inconsistent; sometimes he will hold his ground and throw a shoulder into a blitzer, but veteran rushers will easily elude his attempts to lie at their feet.
Burkhead is a high-motor, high-character back who does everything coaches ask of him. He possesses the quickness and strength to be a solid NFL reserve back capable of contributing in a committee. However, Burkhead's 4.73 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine won't do him any favors.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.