Nebraska football: Will the Blackshirt defense be ‘the Blackshirts’ again?

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 04: Wide receiver Bennett Skowronek
LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 04: Wide receiver Bennett Skowronek /

Nebraska football’s defense was less than stellar in 2017. Will there be improvement going forward?

In Bill Moos‘ press conference after firing Mike Riley, every Nebraska Football fan probably nodded simultaneously when Moos stated this regarding the defense:

"Let’s get the the Blackshirts back to being the Blackshirts. Nebraska’s been known for defense. We need to get the defense back."

The Blackshirt defense is a tradition within the Nebraska Football Program, but when looking at the defensive statistics of the 2017 season, one might wonder if the Huskers even had a defense out on the field at all. Can this be reversed, or at least improved in 2018 and beyond? Was this not-so-Blackshirt defense banished along with The Riddler (AKA Bob Diaco), or should Nebraska expect lingering struggles? Nebraska’s defense was unforgettable in 2017, but for all the worst reasons.

Nebraska’s triumphant savior and new Head Coach Scott Frost will make the Blackshirts the Blackshirts once again, right?  Well, let’s not jump to conclusions. Let’s look at what new Nebraska defensive coordinator and former UCF defensive coordinator Erik Chinander did in 2017. Nebraska finished the season ranked No. 98 in total defense, giving up 436 YPG. And where did UCF stack up? No. 91, giving up 429 YPG. A 7.0 YPG difference is not the improvement that Husker Nation is looking for.

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Do the stats matter?

Does giving up this kind of yardage really matter? UCF went 12-0 giving up over 400 YPG, while Nebraska went 4-8 with similar stats. The difference is that UCF always finished their games with more points than the other team. This suggests that perhaps the best way for Nebraska to fix their defense is to first fix their offense.

It’s no secret that Nebraska’s offense was far from perfect in 2017. While it could move the ball sometimes, it never seemed to develop an identity as a unit, and it often sputtered when it mattered most.

Scott Frost is quickly becoming a known offensive guru, having been the offensive coordinator at Oregon in 2014 when their explosive offense lead them to the National Championship game. More recently, he created the top scoring offense in the nation at UCF, scoring 49.4 points per game.

Nebraska football fans can hope that Frost will work his magic with Nebraska’s offense the same way he did at UCF. This would shift the focus away from the defense as they try to move forward from a horrific season. Of course, ideally, Nebraska would have an explosive offense and an impenetrable defense, but what does it really matter if games are being won? If Nebraska went 12-0 and won a conference championship, their poor defense would be forgivable.

Chinander wouldn’t have been brought on staff if Frost did not think that he was the right man for the job. It’d be wise to do as Frost has and give Chinander all your trust before you reach for your torches and pitchforks. Maybe given the resources and talent at Nebraska, he can coach the beloved Nebraska football Blackshirts back to where we want them to be.