Nebraska I-back Helu is Big 12's No. 20 player

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 20

Today marks the halfway point of our top 40 list of Big 12 players with the addition of Nebraska I-back Roy Helu Jr. at No. 20.

With the departure of Marlon Lucky from last year's team, Helu and Quentin Castille will have a chance to emerge as the featured ball carriers for the Cornhuskers.

Helu has added more weight over the winter to become a solid interior threat. He hopes to improve on his strong finish from last season, when he rushed for the highest rushing average by a Nebraska player in seven seasons.

With an untested quarterback and wide receivers and a veteran offensive line surrounding him, Helu might have one of the best opportunities for a running back in the conference.

Now, he just has to make the most of it.

Player: Roy Helu Jr.
Team: Nebraska
Position: I-back
Vitals: 6-foot-0, 215 pounds; Jr.; Danville, Calif. (San Ramon Valley)

Why he was picked: In limited playing time last season, Helu rushed for 803 yards on 125 carries, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He was the first Cornhusker with at least 100 carries to average six yards per carry since 2000. And he was also a versatile receiver with 25 receptions for 266 yards. Helu really came on at the end of the season, rushing for 510 yards over the final four regular-season games. Included in the late binge were three 100-yard games during that span, topped by a career-high 166 yards in the Cornhuskers' comeback victory over Colorado.

What 2009 will hold: It's not out of the question that Helu could challenge for the Big 12 rushing championship, although the presence of Castille might limit his carries. But the veteran offensive line and new quarterback and receivers breaking in for the Cornhuskers could provide an opportunity for both of them to receive ample playing time. It's not inconceivable for Helu to rush for 1,000 yards and add 40 receptions -- even with Castille in place. His emergence as a prime offensive weapon will be critical if the Cornhuskers have any legitimate hope of claiming the North Division title.

21. Texas Tech DT Colby Whitlock
22. Kansas WR/KR Dezmon Briscoe
23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas WR-QB Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State S Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB/KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE/DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp