After several years of Blackshirts being handed out mid season, Bo Pelini gave seven Huskers theirs just days before their season opener against Wyoming. Jason Ankrah, Thad Randle, Ciante Evans, Josh Mitchell, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Corey Cooper, and David Santos wore the jerseys at yesterdays practice.
For years Blackshirts were given to the starting eleven defenders for Nebraska before the season started. They were the best of the best, the Seal Team Six of The Nebraska Cornhuskers. They were tough, mean, and most importantly, feared. Imagine being an offensive lineman staring into the eyes of Jason or Christian Peter. Put yourself in the place of a quarterback who was hoping that their offensive line could give him enough time to get the ball out of his hands before getting pummeled by big and nasty linebackers. There was also that wide receiver who knew that if he went up for a pass he might get clocked by one of the fastest defensive backs that college football had to offer.
First Pelini named permanent captains, now he is handing out preseason Blackshirts, and only seven of them. We aren’t used to this. Bo Pelini is changing his philosophy in a monumental way. By giving the honor to fewer players, and doing it before the season starts, he has put his own mark on the tradition. In my opinion, it pushes everyone else to bust their @$$ and do everything necessary to join a more exclusive club. It also shows the trust and respect that Bo has for the seven players.
Bo Pelini has entrusted Evans, Mitchell, Randle, Ankrah, Santos, Cooper, and Jean-Baptiste with being the players who change the culture of Nebraska’s defense. They are the ones that have to strike fear into the opposition. When Nebraska needs to make a big stop on fourth down or has to make a big play for The Huskers to win a game, these seven player need to step up and make it happen.
The seven Blackshirts that represent the past, present, and future of the Huskers defense are more than deserving of them than other recent recipients. The group will be expected to lead a young and talented team by re-establishing what being a Blackshirt means. It’s good to have players with high character and integrity leading the way on a unit that many don’t believe in. They have endured both highlight reel plays and devastating defeats, been criticized by local and national media, and by a rabid fan base. Don’t get me wrong, the criticism is well deserved. A defense that has become known for blowout losses deserves their share of blame.
These Blackshirts are now accountable for what happens with this defense, right along with Pelini. No missed assignments, missed tackles, or missed opportunities should come from them. If they are the standard that the rest of the team should look to become, they have to live up to standards of the past. They have to be become the ones who are feared.