Lincoln, NE - The challenges Nebraska running back Braylon Heard has faced already in his career would suggest he's a fifth year senior…he's not, 2012 is only his second go around.
Heard was part of the 2010 recruiting class, but found out he was not academically ineligible to play right away out of high school. So instead of going the junior college route, Heard worked on his academics, and got qualified in April of 2011.
When he first arrived at Nebraska, he was one of three freshman running backs ready to make an impact on the team, despite being rusty from sitting out a year. He still managed to carry the ball 25 times in seven contests, collecting 122 yards and one score last season.
But the spring of 2012 saw a position change. Heard was moved to cornerback, with a log jam at the running back. The sophomore had played defensive back in high school and the transition was thought to be one that could be made very quickly.
But with a decision by fellow sophomore Aaron Green to transfer to TCU and 2011 cornerback signee Charles Jackson getting qualified, the decision was to move Heard back to running back this summer, getting reps at both position during the fall.
One week in to practices and Heard's reportedly practiced entirely at running back - impressing the coaching staff in the process.
A lot of the time when a player gets bumped around between the offensive and defensive side of the ball it can hurt their development, but Nebraska running back's coach Ron Brown actually thinks that it can help a player.
“Sometimes going on the other side of the ball you think oh geez he got away from what he was doing,” said Brown. “But you get a little more maturity from things like that. Sometimes you get a little more knowledge about the game, so I am pleased with where Braylon is at, he’s done a good job.”
Maturity is an important thing for players to develop, especially if they can do it early on in their career. This will greatly help the development of Heard’s game, which continues to grow during fall camp.
“He has had a good fall camp so far,” said Brown. “Made a lot of big plays; he has definitely progressed a lot as a running back. He’s got excellent quickness and speed, he’s playing with better vision, and figuring things out a little better, and more mature.”
With the progression of running backs Heard and Ameer Abdullah, and the acquisitions of running backs like Imani Cross, the Huskers have set up their backfield for years to come.
In order to succeed though, the players will have to gain a lot of repetitions, both during practice, and on the field during games.
“I think we have a lot of weapons even this year,” said Brown. “But repetitions give guys a lot of confidence, particularly if they are the right repetitions and good ones. I think we have a lot of ways to peel the potato, just have to make sure the knife is sharp, and I think that is what we are doing.”
With the coaching staff wanting to cut down on the amount of carries of Rex Burkhead Heard should have plenty of opportunities to reach the field and be able to make an impact during games.
*** Josh Harvey contributed to this report ***