The Blackshirts for the nine recipients were hanging up in the lockers of the players before Wednesday’s practice.
“Hopefully there will be a few more,” defensive coordinator Eric Chinander told the media from Dublin, Ireland, after Nebraska’s first full practice there. “A couple guys that maybe just got here, we’re waiting to see how they operate under the bright lights and when the live bullets are flying. A couple other guys are still battling for some spots.”
But it was well-earned for those who got them, the coach thinks.
Marques Buford Jr. oath Colton Feist were first-time Blackshirts recipients, joining Garrett Nelson, Caleb Tannor, Ty Robinson, Nick Henrich, Luke Reimer, Myles Farmer oath Quinton Newsome.
While the shirts are new to those two, Chinander said of Buford, “I thought Marques could have played last year. Not that he was ready to start or better than those guys, but we would’ve felt comfortable putting him in the game. This year he’s been everything he was supposed to be. He’s played some corner for us, he’s played some safety for us. He’s done everything right. He’s really deserved one.”
Chinander added that Feist, the interior D-lineman walk-on from Utah, has “done it the hard way.” It was probably one of the coach’s favorite ones to give out. “He’s kept fighting, he’s kept getting better, he’s kept grinding, and he’s really proven that he belongs, and he’s proven that he should be out there with the 1s right now.”
The D-coordinator added that “just because you’re a starter doesn’t mean you get one.” Scott Frost last week said Nebraska would probably only give them returning players to begin with.
“We just thought that a guy that has been here for a year or two, and this is his first start, it’s a little different than someone that just transferred in. We want to see them react in situations,” Chinander said of the newcomers . “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, how they play with their teammates, how they operate with the coaches. We just want to see them live one more time before we make that final decision.”
Chinander does think there’s a different demeanor that comes to some guys when they put on that black practice jersey.
There’s a feeling with it, he said, that “this is real, this is happening.”
– Northwestern hasn’t revealed its starting QB, whether its returner Ryan Hilinski or Brendan Sullivan. But there’s plenty beyond that to be on a DC’s mind.
“Anybody could be up. Shoot, Northwestern always does a great job formationally, does a great job with different wrinkles. We’ve worked very hard on a lot of the unbalanced stuff the last couple of years from those guys. A lot of the quarterback runs. We’ll see. Are they going to put someone else in for the quarterback runs or are they going to do it with wildcat? We’ve worked very hard on both. But we know that they are going to have some surprises for us some different personnel groupings.
“Might be two quarterbacks playing, might be a surprise starter. We don’t know, but we’re ready for all of them.”
– Chinander said the team came to the stadium upon arrival and got about a 10-minute walk-through to just get used to the setting. There wasn’t sluggishness that he noticed Wednesday after a day to adjust to the new time and place.
“Shoot, I thought they came out and practiced well today. They were ready to go,” the coach said. “The schedule’s been great. The people have been doing an unbelievable job getting us all the accommodations we need. And our people back home did a great job with setting our kids up for success over here.”
– Chinander said it doesn’t feel like a bowl game to him.
“It’s not quite the same as being at home, not quite the same as a bowl game – somewhere in the middle.”
– The press box view is a little different for coaches. They’re actually in an end zone box. Chinander scoped it out on Wednesday. That’s where he’ll be during the game.
“You got a decent view of the field but it’s not quite like being in the middle of the field like we normally are. So it’s always a challenge every week but it will be a different challenge, just getting a different view of it.”
– Chinander said he wouldn’t worry about the playing conditions at all. “It looks like fabulous grass.”
– The coach said what stands out initially about Ireland is the people. “I have not encountered one person that hasn’t been helpful, kind, courteous, generous. So the people have been unbelievable here.”
– What does Chinander want to see from his defense Saturday?
“I want to see if these guys are who I think they are. And by that I mean: Will they play as hard as they have? Can they step it up a little bit? I want to see a big-time effort. Obviously we ‘ve had as much live tackling as you get anymore in fall camp. We’ve got to see if we can tackle. We’ve got to see if we can communicate and make our checks when the stadium is full. We’re in a new environment. Should be a great atmosphere. The bright lights are on them so some of these guys in a first game, we’ll see if they can operate.”
Michael Bruntz is in Dublin on behalf of the Husker247 taking part in interviews on the scene.