Understand this about departing running back Aaron Green: It wasn’t easy to leave Nebraska after his freshman season.
One day after the cancelled spring game, Aaron told his parents he was considering a transfer closer to home, his mother, Charlar Green, said Monday.
“He prayed and prayed on it for a week,” Charlar Green said. “It was a very, very, very difficult decision.”
One that had nothing to do with senior running back Rex Burkhead, whom Aaron Green “really, really admired and gained a lot from” in one year, Charlar Green said.
“Rex brought 110 percent everyday,” Charlar Green said. “I don’t care if it was practice or whatever. He taught Aaron a lot. He had no beef with Rex.” And Aaron Green became quick, good friends with fellow freshman running back Ameer Abdullah.
But Green’s a driven kid – you talk to him two times and you can tell that — and with Burkhead, Abdullah and quarterback Taylor Martinez all taking carries away, Green’s chance to show off his skills would have been limited in 2012. That’s simple math. One ball. Four potential ball carriers. And that doesn’t count Alabama transfer Mike Marrow.
So, when coach Bo Pelini confirmed Green’s departure, it was one less playmaker for Nebraska offense. And perhaps one more playmaker, if sophomore Braylon Heard returns to running back after a spring at corner.
Coaches asked Heard to switch to defensive back because, between he, Abdullah and Green, Heard was the only guy versatile enough to do it. And knowing that coach Bo Pelini likes to stockpile speed on the defensive side of the ball, Heard may stay where he is.
Should he move back? Yes. Pull the trigger on it, especially if Pelini feels like Ciante Evans is a clear-cut starter at nickel corner. Heard’s a good, tough runner who can spring the big play, too.
Meanwhile, Abdullah is the clear-cut No. 2 behind Burkhead. He was the No. 2 guy last year, too, and coupled with his kickoff and punt returns, he played a bigger factor on the field than Green, who came to Lincoln with the more polished recruiting resume.
Abdullah, interestingly enough, was a late addition to the 2011 recruiting class when it looked like Heard wouldn’t academically qualify. That he took on Green, a Texas prep legend for several years, toe-to-toe was a surprise to Husker fans. It might have been a surprise to Green, although he and Abdullah became quick friends.
But Abdullah’s high school tape was terrific. And high school football in Alabama — especially where Abdullah was playing – is plenty comparable to Texas 5A.
I saw both of them first last summer during Football 202, running sprints. Like wide receiver Kenny Bell, Jr. is every bit the athlete Jamal Turner is, Abdullah was every bit the specimen and athlete in those drills as Green. One was a three-star. One was a five-star. Just symbols on a message board.
So while losing Green is tough — he had a big spring camp — Abdullah brings plenty to the table. And he’s around for three more years. If Heard moves back that’s another proven athlete. Imani Cross has great potential – if he’s ready to build on it at the college level, which can be hard for big backs.
A transfer of Green’s caliber is rarely a good thing. But could it be worse? Yes.