The easy way to size up recent player departures in the Nebraska football program is to make the knee-jerk leap that there's a systematic problem.
Husker coach Bo Pelini's detractors seize upon the notion, decrying a so-called "mass exodus" of alleged difference-making talent.
The rational way is to analyze the departures case by case. Using the latter approach, it's difficult to find reason for alarm, or even concern.
When Pelini announced Wednesday that sophomore defensive tackle Chase Rome is no longer on the team, the reaction in many quarters was predictable: Another former four-star recruit jumped ship. The sky must be falling.
|QB Matt Barkley||USC|
|QB Geno Smith||West Virginia|
|RB De'Anthony Thomas||Oregon|
|RB Le'Veon Bell||Michigan St.|
|QB Collin Klein||Kansas St.|
"Bottom line is, his personal goals, his personal perception of where he should be on this football team doesn't match the team goals," Pelini told reporters.
Rome was losing playing time to a pair of freshmen. It is easy to connect the dots.
Pelini is in his fifth season at Nebraska. We know he is generally popular with players. We also know enough about the coach to understand he has low tolerance for those who shy from competition. He demands that his players compete daily for starting positions.
If a player is losing playing time, you hope he decides to dig in and compete harder. You hope he does what Joe Ganz did in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 — battle every day and keep the faith. He ultimately flourished as Nebraska's starting quarterback in 2008.
Bottom line, it's difficult to drum up much sympathy for players who leave programs because they dislike being pushed for playing time.
Rome was the fourth Nebraska scholarship player to leave the program since spring practice ended.
Sophomore offensive lineman Tyler Moore left in mid-August because he was unhappy in the program, his father said at the time. Brian Moore this week indicated, in an article on Warchant.com, that Tyler thought the offensive line lacked cohesiveness. Is that reason to leave?
Tyler Moore, in the days leading to his departure, was in a neck-and-neck competition with Brent Qvale for the starting job at left tackle.
Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Ryan Klachko left town in August because, according to Pelini, he didn't fit the program's culture.
Sophomore running back Aaron Green left in late April because he felt he didn't fit the offense and wanted to be closer to home, his father said. Aaron was third in the running back pecking order.
Judged separately, the cases fail to suggest a systemic issue.
The fact all four players were four-star recruits gets people's attention. Recruiting analysts told us they are great players so it must be true — never mind what we saw on the field.
And never mind that the majority of great players are willing to fight for their positions, no matter the competition.
Going to the mailbag
Plenty of reaction from UCLA fans to my pregame column saying Nebraska had an edge over the Bruins because of the Huskers' greater commitment to football. One UCLA fan's response:
"As I see it Nebraska has a problem. They do not have much to offer in recruiting versus the top recruiting programs in the country. The local talent is limited and Neb. is not inherently appealing to top athletes from large population areas in warm-weather states: California, Florida and Texas ... I like Neb. football and certainly respect its history. But as we who follow UCLA basketball know all too well, history isn't enough."