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Freedom Akinmoladun wears his Blackshirt jersey and looks to the sideline during game
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Why the Huskers Handed Out 16 Blackshirts

August 29, 2017

During the first weekly Big Ten teleconference call of the season, Nebraska head coach Mike Riley didn’t say a whole lot, but he did touch on the thought process behind handing out the Blackshirts yesterday.

Riley said that new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco didn’t need a lot explained to him when it came to the tradition behind the Blackshirts, and the process as a whole was “pretty simple.” He said the coaching staff looked at the defense last week and began selecting guys.

“We selected guys that had been either in a situation where they were in a sub unit like the nickel or the dime and played a big role in playing defense in the game,” Riley said. “Or they were in a situation like maybe a [linebacker] Mo[hamed] Barry is where we feel like we’re three-for-two at inside linebacker.

“With [starting inside backers] Dedrick Young and Chris Weber, Mo is going to play in the games and rotate in with them, so we gave Mo a Blackshirt because of his earning that three-for-two format.”

When the Huskers released their first depth chart of the season yesterday, guys like Barry, corner Dicaprio Bootle, safety Antonio Reed and defensive end Khalil Davis were listed as backups. Yet, they were among the group of 16 defensive players to receive Blackshirts, meaning each can probably be expected to play significant time early and often this season.

Riley also talked about the intrigue that came with switching defenses in the offseason.

“Over the last few years, working more with the offense, I’ve always appreciated the added thought and preparation for dealing with the 3-4,” Riley said. “I think in this day of offensive football, the flexibility you can get from the 3-4 is helpful week-to-week in what you might want to do gameplan-wise.”

Riley added that there’s a desire from the staff to get more athletic on defense and the idea of having an extra linebacker spot to recruit for in the new 3-4 defense was intriguing.

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