The off-season of change for Bo Pelini continued on Wednesday and nothing to date — not the Harlem Shake or prank videos, not naming the captains prior to the season — has resonated with Husker fans quite as much as tonight’s news: Seven Huskers will start the season with black shirts already in their locker.
“You know you can’t win on this thing, you’re either too early, too late, but we thought that there were seven guys that solidified a starting position and we’ll go from there,” Pelini said during his weekly appearance on the Sports Nightly radio show.
Defensive end Jason Ankrah, defensive tackle Thad Randle, linebacker David Santos, cornerbacks Ciante Evans, Josh Mitchell and Stanley Jean-Baptiste, and safety Corey Cooper were all wearing the jerseys — sharp ones too, with red shoulder stripes and the skull and bones logo on the sleeve — at practice Wednesday night.
This is a departure from how Pelini has done things in the past. The earliest Pelini had distributed the practice jerseys — traditionally reserved for the Huskers starting 11 on defense — was in 2010 when 12 players received their Blackshirts following a 56-21 win at Washington.
“I just thought it was the right thing for our football team, for the kids right now and for the guys that have earned it up to this point, earned it through camp and earned it through the spring,” Pelini said. “I believe in this group defensively. How that’s going to play out on Saturday and how we play on Saturday…I think we’ll play well but I think we’ll have some things we struggle with, make some mistakes here and there, but I think, what I’m looking at, is what this group is going to be over time. I think it’s going to be a good group and has a lot of potential to it.”
A few other quick notes from Wednesday’s practice:
–Running backs coach Ron Brown said that wide receiver Kenny Bell and freshman I-back Terrell Newby are the top contenders to handle kickoff returns on Saturday. Wide receiver Jamal Turner will handle punt returns. Brown mentioned that Ameer Abdullah, who had a special teams touchdown in each of his first two seasons, is also still available for special teams duty.
–Brown also mentioned that freshman I-back Adam Taylor will redshirt this season. Taylor made the decision to redshirt, but Brown said he’ll continue to practice with the first team, not the scout team and if Nebraska needs to play him this season, it will.
“I told him if anything happens, we may need him during the course of the year,” Brown said. “We may not be able to get through without him, and if we need him he better get ready. So he’ll be getting reps every day in practice, and he’ll be ready to go.”