Nebraska's defensive situation is...well, it's not good. Seven seniors graduate from the starting lineup, and that's from a defense that was as hot-and-cold as any in college football. In its 10 wins, Nebraska's defense gave up about 17 points a game, which would put it 11th in the nation in scoring defense. In the four losses? 53.5 points, a full touchdown per game worse than Colorado, the nation's worst scoring defense for 2012 as a whole.
Yep. That defense is losing a clear majority of its starting personnel.
With that, then, it's imperative to cultivate the remaining talent and use it as a source of production and leadership. And that is the exact opposite of what Nebraska's going to get out of top reserve defensive tackle Chase Rome, who started three games in 2012 and is now gone from the program, per Bo Pelini. Here's more from the Associated Press:
Running back Braylon Heard and defensive tackle Chase Rome have left the Nebraska football program.
Coach Bo Pelini announced the players' departures Wednesday at his signing-day news conference. Pelini said both players plan to transfer after finishing the spring semester at Nebraska.
The Heard announcement wasn't exactly news, as he had been rumored to be gone for about a week prior. Rome's departure wasn't on as many people's radars, but it wasn't much of a surprise either.
Rome is the player who left the Nebraska program in September after being benched during the UCLA loss, and Pelini said at the time that "his personal goals, his personal perception of where he should be on this football team doesn't match the team goals," per the Omaha World-Herald.
Rome did rejoin the team a week later, and worked his way back into the rotation as a top reserve, logging 19 tackles on the year. He even earned a start late in the year when Baker Steinkuhler went out with an injury. That start? Against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship. For Nebraska fans' sake, we won't discuss how that one went.
He found himself as a reserve once again for the Capital One Bowl—another profound failure by the defense as a whole—and wouldn't you know it, the guy who left the team when he got benched once decided to leave for good when it happened again.
This is a lose-lose situation for Pelini. His defense is in tatters, especially in the front seven. Even if Rome wasn't going to start over sophomore-to-be Kevin Williams and rising senior Thad Randle, he was most certainly in position to be the third defensive tackle in the rotation, and guys in that position get playing time and ample opportunity to play their way back into the starting lineup. It's a valuable role on any team, and it's especially valuable to a defense that is hurting badly for experience and talent.
And yet it's clear that Rome had trouble adjusting to that role, and if he didn't want to be part of the team then the feeling was probably mutual from Pelini and the rest of his teammates. So off he goes.
It'll be interesting to see where Rome goes from here. He's clearly interested in starting, but if he wants to do so at the FBS level he'll only have one year of eligibility left. He'll be a junior in 2013 and he used his redshirt year in 2010. And if he wants to be a starting defensive tackle at the FCS level, he'll have two years to do it, but it's the FCS.
Hopefully wherever he goes, he'll be happier with the coach and program than he was at Nebraska.