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Frost hands out first batch of Blackshirts, but others have to wait

September 12, 2018

LINCOLN — Nebraska cornerback Dicaprio Bootle balanced his headphones on two containers of food Monday as he talked to a reporter, the life of a go-go-go college athlete on full display.

It was one of the better days of Bootle’s career. It always is when a Blackshirt is hanging in your locker. Bootle thanked God and felt a rush of happiness far different from 2017, when he got one before the season.

“It felt better than getting my first Blackshirt,” Bootle said. “I felt like I worked really hard for this one.”

Bootle noticed something else, too. He was the only defensive back wearing one.

After NU’s loss to Colorado on Saturday, only seven Huskers received Blackshirts on Monday. All four starting linebackers — Mohamed Barry, Tyrin Ferguson, Luke Gifford and Dedrick Young — got them, as did starting linemen Mick Stoltenberg and Freedom Akinmoladun.

Others — including several who had them last year — will have to wait. In a long meeting Monday, coach Scott Frost said he explained to the team why defensive coordinator Erik Chinander is being so judicious.

“We’re not just going to give them to guys because they’re playing,” Frost said. “It’s not a one-game thing, it’s a body-of-work thing.”

Thus, six returning starters — minus Ferguson — got them. That’s quite a contrast from the 16 awarded by former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco before the start of last season. Seven Huskers who got them then — twins Carlos and Khalil Davis, Alex Davis, Lamar Jackson, Eric Lee, Antonio Reed and Aaron Williams — don’t have one yet in 2018.

Frost singled out the Davis twins for both having strong games against the Buffaloes, but they need to show a little more.

“We had a lot of guys on defense that I think played well enough to earn Blackshirts. We’re just not going to give them all out at once,” Frost said. “We had seven guys that we thought their work over time deserved them. Several more deserved them from the game, but I expect them to get it soon.”

Barry, who led NU with 12 tackles Saturday, said getting a Blackshirt meant a lot to him because of his position coach, Barrett Ruud, who holds Nebraska’s career record for tackles.

“All-time tackles leader, great player, Blackshirt,” Barry said. “He did a lot for this program.”

As players arrived for morning meetings, Frost told them some Huskers would have Blackshirts hanging in their lockers. Until then, Stoltenberg said, he figured Nebraska hadn’t earned them yet.

But there they were.

“It was a cool deal,” Stoltenberg said.

Nebraska’s urgency in practice was also notable, players said. Nebraska’s defense largely held the Buffs in check for the second and third quarters but struggled in the fourth. Mistakes have to be cleaned up, players said, because NU will be in its share of close games.

“We know the standard of energy and effort — and that’s been the standard since spring practice,” Barry said. “Now we need to tune up those fine details. Small things got us beat.”

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