LINCOLN, Neb. — Zavier Betts, the talented sophomore receiver who left the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 2022 and returned this year, has left the football team, coach Matt Rhule said Saturday. Here’s what you need to know:
- Betts had been progressing well this year and entered preseason camp in good standing after he completed 21 credit hours in the spring, according to Rhule, to regain eligibility after he returned to Nebraska in January. Betts left the Huskers initially in the spring of last year.
- A Bellevue West graduate, he set the Class A high school record in Nebraska with 46 touchdown receptions and was rated as the No. 1 prospect in the state and a top-150 prospect nationally in the Class of 2020. He caught 12 passes for 131 yards as a true freshman with the Huskers and started five games in 2021, catching 20 balls for 286 yards.
- The 6-foot-2, 205-pound receiver had been expected to play a key role among the Nebraska pass catchers this season after the Huskers lost five of their top six producing receivers and tight ends from last season.
Why did Betts leave?
Rhule said he was surprised by Betts’ decision. It was not a disciplinary situation.
“He came to me and said, ‘Hey coach, my heart’s not in it,’” Rhule said. “(I’m) very, very, very proud of Zavier as a person, getting eligible. I think he intends to stay in school and work to graduate. Obviously, as I told him, I’m disappointed in the timing. But what we ask people to do is hard. If their heart’s not in it, we certainly understand.
“He’s a guy that I love and I care about, and I hope he finds what he’s looking for.”
What does this mean for Nebraska?
A position group with plenty of questions faces one more. Nebraska added Billy Kemp from Virginia as a veteran presence, but he’s the only option close to a sure thing as the Huskers approach their Aug. 31 opener at Minnesota. Fellow senior Marcus Washington has dealt with multiple injuries.
Junior Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda, another receiver who returned under Rhule after leaving the Huskers in 2022, is set to play a key role. Nebraska also has an experienced player in Baylor transfer Joshua Fleeks, who was a late arrival in camp after he showed up overweight.
Betts would have been counted on this season as one of Nebraska’s most explosive threats. His departure opens more opportunities for young players. Nebraska signed six true freshmen wide receivers in its 2023 class, including Malachi Coleman and Jaidyn Doss — identified Saturday by Rhule as talented enough to play.
“It takes a lot to go play as a freshman,” Rhule said. “They have to make a decision. They’ve got to put the time in to really learn. We have enough guys to win with, but someone’s going to have to step up from that young group to help us out.”
A group of walk-ons, including Alex Bullock and Ty Hahn, may also be needed for important contributions at wide receiver.
(Photo: Steven Branscombe / Getty Images)