Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah leads the nation in rushing and is rising fast in the race for the Heisman Trophy, and one expert says his game compares favorably to Cincinnati Bengals tailback Giovani Bernard.
NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock says Abdullah -- a senior who is averaging 156.1 yards per game -- reminds him of Bernard, who was a second-round pick out of North Carolina by the Bengals in 2013. Abdullah is listed at 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds by Nebraska; Bernard was 5-8 and 202 pounds when he was drafted.
Mayock says Abdullah has "a tremendous skill set" and "tremendous make-you-miss ability." He also lauded Abdullah's production. Abdullah is in the midst of his third consecutive 1,000-yard season -- he is the first player in school history with three -- and is second in school history with 4,226 rushing yards; he trails leader Mike Rozier by 554 yards and is on a pace to surpass Rozier. In addition, Abdullah leads the nation with four 200-yard games this season.
While he and Bernard have similar body types, Abdullah has been far more productive. Bernard averaged 1,240 yards in his two seasons with the Tar Heels, and Abdullah's average is at 1,359 over the past three, with at least four games left this season. Abdullah's 17 rushing TDs are second-most nationally. As for durability, he is eighth in the nation in rushing attempts per game (22.5). He is averaging 6.9 yards per carry, and of the 66 players nationally averaging at least 6.0 per carry, he is by far the leader in attempts (by 26).
Mayock said Abdullah has "great quickness and change of direction" and possesses the toughness necessary to run between the tackles.
"He totally understands patience and when to make his cut," Mayock said.
Bernard was an excellent receiver at UNC, with 92 receptions in his two seasons. Mayock also praised Abdullah's receiving skills. Abdullah had a combined 50 receptions in the past two seasons, but he hasn't been used as often as a pass-catcher this season. He has just 13 receptions, though one of Nebraska's biggest plays this season was a screen pass that Abdullah took 58 yards for a touchdown with 20 seconds left to help the Huskers beat FCS opponent McNeese State.
Abdullah will have a chance to put up big numbers again this week, when the Huskers play host to Purdue. The Boilermakers are 81st nationally in rush defense (176.8 yards per game) and have been gouged for 579 rushing yards in their past two games, against Michigan State and Minnesota.
Abdullah's personality also makes him worth following. Abdullah, who is from Birmingham, Ala., freely admits "I'm a weird individual" and says he is prepared for the "zombie apocalypse."
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.