Less than three weeks after being sent packing by Auburn coaches, sophomore cornerback Jonathan Rose is going from the "Loveliest Village on the Plains" to the Great Plains after signing a new letter of intent Friday to play at Nebraska. He'll sit out this fall under standard NCAA transfer rules, and then join the mix next fall with three years of eligibility remaining.
The Cornhuskers won a brief but crowded competition for Rose's talents over Florida State and a handful of FCS schools, where he would have been eligible to play immediately, in large part thanks to a couple of familiar faces in Lincoln: Defensive backs coach Terry Joseph, who recruited Rose out of high school as an assistant at Tennessee, and sophomore wide receiver Ameer Abdullah, who played at a neighboring high school near Birmingham. Based on those connections and Nebraska's track record of sending defensive backs to the NFL – five members of the 'Husker secondary have been drafted in the last three years – Rose decided to sign without having ever set foot on Nebraska's campus.
Rose's father, Charles, played cornerback at Auburn, and Jonathan followed suit last year with unanimous four-star ratings from the major recruiting sites, which generally considered him one of the top 10 incoming cornerbacks in the nation. As a freshman, he managed to get on the field in nine games, thereby avoiding a redshirt. But he also fell behind classmates Robenson Therezie and Jermaine Whitehead and remained buried on a crowded depth chart – the Tigers return their entire rotation at cornerback, including regular starters Chris Davis and T'Sharvan Bell and two others who started at least one game last year – despite generally positive reviews in the spring. The catalyst for his dismissal, generically described by Auburn as "personal reasons," remains a mystery.
"It has nothing to do with grades or anything that deals with the police or anything like that," Rose's high school coach, Keith Etheredge, told the Birmingham News after his former player's dismissal. "It's just that he doesn't need to be down there anymore. It has nothing to do with the coaching staff or Auburn or anything like that. ...I said when he left high school here he was the type of kid I want my son to grow up to be. I still feel that way. Nothing has changed. My gosh, if Jonathan Rose can't make it in Division I college football, I don't have a kid that I have ever coached that can make it."
Rose didn't lend any new insight into his departure, but said he felt "a sigh of relief" and "blessed" over the second chance. "Sometimes people can judge young kids unfairly for the mistakes they make," he told reporters. "I wish things could have happened in a different way."