Nebraska football head coach Bo Pelini said sophomore Braylon Heard will start off preseason camp in August playing both running back and backup nickel back on defense, according to a Lincoln Journal star blog entry.
"He thought he made good strides and put a lot of work in at nickel and didn't want to waste it," the coach said. "And I think he's confident (at running back). Obviously, he played a whole year at the running back position. We think he can really help us there. … We're going to see how it goes for a while, and then make a decision, obviously sit down with him and see how it goes.”
The Huskers moved Heard from running back to defensive back this spring. However, that move was made before classmate, and fellow running back, Aaron Green announced he was transferring to TCU.
A player dabbling on both sides of the ball is not unusual. Florida State’s Deion Sanders, Michigan’s Charles Woodson and more recently Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh did such but that was in roles where they were primarily defensive players making cameo appearances on the offensive side.
My first instinct says, “pick a position and keep him there,” because I don’t see him flourishing if he flip-flops. Heard is working with Ciante Evans at the nickel back position on defense. At running back, Nebraska returns Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah but that is one position where most coaches like having as much depth as possible. Heard had limited involvement as a freshman with 25 carries for 114 yards.
If Heard was near playing time at either position, I doubt they would be having him split time. I think this is a signal that they are using him for depth, but don’t have serious plans for him. It’s just awfully hard to really develop at either position when you can’t concentrate on one or the other.
Although, I think Pelini’s strategy is he really doesn’t know what he has in terms of depth at running back or cornerback. If some new guys step up at running back and Pelini feels comfortable I’m guessing Heard will play cornerback. I personally think it is smart to let this play out, prepare Heard for playing either position just in case the depth at running back or cornerback is not too Pelini’s liking.
However, if they continue this experiment for too long before settling on one position, he should probably go ahead and redshirt, practice at one position or the other, and then come back in 2013 ready and available to make an impact on the field.