Nebraska Loses Aaron Green to Transfer, Cornhusker Run Game Needs Answers


Running back Aaron Green is transferring from Nebraska, The

Lincoln Star Journal

‘s Steven M. Sipple

reported late Sunday night

. The San Antonio native’s father cited a desire to be closer to home. Green appeared in 12 games in 2011, his true freshman campaign. He was used sparingly, but along with Ameer Abdullah could have factored in significantly to the Huskers’ 2012 offense.

To compete for the Big Ten championship, head coach Bo Pelini and offensive coordinator Tim Beck need to find a suitable replacement for Green. His departure leaves an offense predicated on the rush with just two backs, plus option quarterback Taylor Martinez. Three rushing options is more depth than some teams have in that facet of the game, but most teams aren’t Nebraska.

Nebraska’s premiere teams of the Tom Osborne era did two things better than any team in college football: defend, and rush. Bill Callahan brought an uptempo offense to Lincoln, but it didn’t suit the program — at all. Pelini’s hire after a successful three years as LSU’s defensive coordinator signified a return to the mindset that made the Huskers perhaps the single most feared program in the nation. Nebraska has seen a return to its defensive roots, as well as a more rush oriented offense. However,

The Huskers have run well with a player or two under the Pelini regime. Roy Helu Jr. went for 1147 yards in 2009 and 1245 in 2010, while Rex Burkhead and Martinez combined for over 1800 and 2200 yards in the past two campaigns. The top of the depth chart has had no trouble producing, but beyond the initial three options, the Huskers are ineffective. That’s what distinguishes the championship caliber Nebraska teams of old from the merely good teams of the current.

Each of those past seasons, production drops off a cliff beyond the top three. The 2010 team saw the triad of Helu, Burkhead and Martinez go for over 3000 yards and the Huskers ranked No. 9 in rushing yards per game. But the next most productive ball carrier was Cody Green, who managed all of 96 yards on 37 carries. Osborne’s elite teams of the ’90s ran the ball so much more effectively than any other program because of balance. The national championship team of 1997 featured Ahman Green and Scott Frost each surpassing the century mark — Green in fact flirting with 2000 yards — but you had to go down to No. 8 for the first rusher without at least 100 yards. The 1995 team, one of the greatest ever, featured nine rushers with 185 yards or more on the season.

The current crop of Huskers aren’t going to pass with much efficiency. Martinez certainly airs it out more than Tommie Frazier or Scott Frost in the option offense, but it’s not a strong enough part of his game for Nebraska to not rely on a multifaceted ground attack. suggested recently converted Braylon Heard could return to the backfield from cornerback. Incoming freshman Imani Cross was a four star recruit, and the kind of big, powerful back Nebraska likes.

Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, Nebraska is undergoing change with Carl Pelini gone as defensive coordinator. He accepted the coaching position at FAU in the winter, leaving John Papuchis as the new DC. Papuchis was promoted from within, and ultimately the defense as Bo Pelini’s fingerprints on it. There won’t be change in schematics, but Nebraska does have significant replacements to make along its first string: Lavonte David, Jared Crick, and Alfonzo Dennard were all NFL Draft selections this past weekend.