Awaiting nine Nebraska defensive players at Wednesday’s practice were, at long last, Blackshirts.
Myles Farmer, Colton Feist, Nick Henrich, Marquis Buford Jr., Garrett Nelson, Quinton Newsome, Luke Reimer, Ty Robinson and Caleb Tannor all joined the historic brotherhood of Husker defenders before Nebraska’s first full-speed practice in Dublin.
Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander told media gathered after Wednesday’s practice that all nine earned their Blackshirt. He also said there are a few others on the cusp of earning a Blackshirt but coaches want to see what they can do in a game situation at Nebraska before they’re dealt.
“Just because you’re a starter doesn’t mean you get one,” Chinander said. “Some of those guys have probably earned the right to be out there in the starting lineup or in a package right now. We just thought a guy that had been here for a year or two and this is his first start is a little different than a guy who just transferred in.
“We want to see them react in situations. We’ve seen most of those other guys in a game, whether they’re a starter or not, we want to see how these guys react in a game, we want to see how they play with their teammates, how they operate with the coaches. We just want to see them one more time live before we make that final decision.”
Those who received Blackshirts practiced with a different demeanor on Wednesday, Chinander said.
Chinander wasn’t concerned with the playing conditions or adapting to the perennial ryegrass hybrid that covers the field at Aviva Stadium. He’ll be coaching from the press box, which will be situated closer to the end zone than usual.
Since Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald hasn’t named a starting quarterback, the Huskers are preparing for a multitude of unbalanced packages.
“We know they’ll have some surprises for us, some different personnel groupings,” Chinander said. “Might be two quarterbacks playing, might be a surprise starter. We don’t know but we’re ready for all of them.”
Nebraska’s offense started Wednesday’s practice a little slow. But with more reps came muscle memory and execution.
Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple said a lot of that came with traveling overseas. Quarterbacks told him yesterday they’d never been so tired. Then came some sweat. By the time the day was done, Whipple said it turned into a “really good practice,” save for a few mental mistakes.
Whipple spoke to the media for the first time since transfer quarterback Casey Thompson was named the team’s starter. The offensive coordinator gave some background into talks they’ve had in Ireland and stateside.
“Leadership comes from your play, not from your mouth,” Whipple summarized. “There’s going to be bump in the road, there’s going to be something happen, it always does in the first game.”
He downplayed Thompson “winning over” his teammates, saying it wasn’t politics.
“He’s won me over, he’s won coach (Frost) over,” Whipple said.
Whipple stressed the importance of getting out of of the first quarter “without giving the game away.” Then the offense can settle into a rhythm. He said that’s about how the offense has played in practice and scrimmages.
“I’d certainly like to change it. We’d like to start with a touchdown on the first drive,” Whipple said. “So we’ll see how that plays out.”