Don't be surprised if Nebraska's backfield gets a little lighter over the next few days. According to reports from the Omaha World-Herald and MyValleySports.com, RB Braylon Heard has decided to transfer from the Huskers and play football closer to home. Heard is a native of Youngstown, Ohio, and he attended Cardinal Mooney HS—the alma mater of Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini.
Here's more from the World-Herald, which says it has confirmed the decision by Heard:
Junior running back Braylon Heard has decided to leave Nebraska’s football program, a source close to the situation confirmed to The World-Herald Tuesday afternoon.
Heard is in the process of getting permission from NU to contact other schools, the source said.
Now for what it's worth, Pelini has not confirmed the transfer nor has Heard made a public statement about whether he's staying or going. That said, if this is all news to Heard, he'd have probably said something by now—or certainly someone would have said otherwise to a newspaper.
This potential (and likely) move by Heard isn't much of a mystery; the World-Herald is reporting that like with so many transfers, this one's coming down to playing time:
Heard, expected to be Nebraska’s No. 2 running back behind Ameer Abdullah, ran for 357 yards on 52 carries in 12 contest last season, but was apparently frustrated with his role during the year. The Husker coaches did approach Heard this offseason with the idea for him to take reps at receiver, according to the source.
“It was a hard decision (for Heard). He loves Nebraska,” the source said. “But he wants to go someplace where he has a shot to play running back.”
In essence, Heard is leaving because he's more or less expendable. And if he's expendable, then Nebraska can eat this loss without much difficulty. So fret not, Nebraska fans—your team is still just fine at running back.
Ameer Abdullah is coming off a 1,137-yard rushing year, which was his first opportunity to be a feature back in Nebraska's offense. Yes, his fumbling issues are a concern, but that's the only thing stopping Abdullah from being a high-level tailback.
Depth is also fine. Sophomore-to-be Imani Cross was one of our picks as a breakout star of 2013, and with Heard out of the picture he'll definitely have the opportunity to get some decent playing time—especially in short yardage situations.
Also, Nebraska's backfield is bulked up for the future, as the Huskers are just days away from signing one of the best classes of running backs in the 2013 recruiting class. Per 247Sports.com, Terrelle Newby (CA) and Adam Taylor (TX) are top 20 running backs in the class and the highest-rated offensive commits in Nebraska's class (according to their composite ratings). At least one of these guys can redshirt in 2013.
So of course Heard looked around this backfield and saw that it was too crowded for him. It's hard to see a road to major carries for Heard here without at least one back being taken out of the equation for whatever reason.
This is what happens in a large, thriving backfield. Just last year, RB Aaron Green transferred from Nebraska to TCU after a decent true freshman campaign. And he'll probably be just fine at TCU. That's sort of how it goes. But Nebraska will survive Heard's departure with a still-loaded backfield just as it survived Green's departure with a still-loaded backfield. Fret not.