LINCOLN — Two juniors-to-be whose roles figured to increase significantly in 2013 have decided to part ways with the Nebraska football program.
Coach Bo Pelini announced Wednesday that I-back Braylon Heard and defensive tackle Chase Rome will finish the spring semester at NU, but they won't participate in any football-related activities with the Huskers.
The World-Herald reported last week that Heard had informed the coaching staff of his plans to transfer. Heard was projected to be Nebraska's No. 2 I-back.
Rome was set to be an important piece for NU next fall, too. But he met with Pelini recently to discuss his future, and apparently decided to transfer.
“It was mutual,” Pelini said. “He thought it was best that he go to play at another program, and I agreed with him.”
Rome, who left the team for a week during the 2012 season, started five games during the past two years. He had 32 total tackles in 21 games.
Depth has been a concern at defensive tackle for the past two years. Veterans Baker Steinkuhler and Cameron Meredith, a D-end who logged time inside last year, are off preparing for shots at professional careers. Senior Thad Randle is the only Husker defensive tackle with as much experience as Rome.
And Randle will miss spring practice.
Pelini said Wednesday that Randle, who played through pain last season, underwent surgery to clean up his injured knee. But Randle will be ready to play by the fall.
“When he's healthy, he's a really good football player,” Pelini said. “We need him back at 100 percent.”
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Nebraska might move one of its defensive ends inside, Pelini said. He said Wednesday at his signing day press conference that he's also told the six D-line members of the 2013 class to be ready to play immediately. They'll get a chance, if they earn it, Pelini said.
Same goes for the two signees at I-back, Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor.
Without Heard in the mix, Nebraska could need both Newby and Taylor to back up expected starter Ameer Abdullah. Sophomore Imani Cross will compete for playing time at that spot, as well.
Pelini said Heard was welcome to rejoin the running back competition if he had a change of heart.
“I think the world of Braylon,” Pelini said. “It's just right now, his mindset's in another place. I wish him luck.”
Since the end of the 2012 season, counting the departure of Heard and Rome, four scholarship players have left the program before completing their eligibility. Offensive lineman Nick Ash graduated. Defensive tackle Todd Peat is transferring.
But Pelini said that kind of attrition is normal in college football. And there's often a silver lining for both parties involved.
“In my mind, if they leave, they're probably better off someplace else,” Pelini said. “And in the end, our program's probably better off.”
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