There were 13 Huskers wearing Blackshirts for the first time this season at Tuesday's practice. As expected, they were thrilled about the honorary jerseys.
The 13: defensive backs Nate Gerry, Joshua Kalu, Chris Jones and Aaron Williams; linebackers Dedrick Young, Michael Rose-Ivey, Josh Banderas, Chris Weber and Marcus Newby; and defensive linemen Ross Dzuris, Freedom Akinmoladun, Mick Stoltenberg and Kevin Maurice.
The historic practice jerseys, annually awarded to the first string defense, were hanging up in the locker room before Tuesday's workout.
Below is a sampling of the reactions...
It's the first Blackshirt for Jones. "That feeling is — you can't explain that feeling," he said. "Just seeing that jersey up there and knowing that now you're representing guys that came before and guys that are coming after you. It's a great honor."
Maurice, a Florida native, said it didn't take long for him to gain an appreciation for the Blackshirt tradition. "When I first got here, just seeing guys when they first got the Blackshirt," Maurice said. "How hard they worked and everything that they put into it. The hard work you put in (during) fall camp, and how you carry yourself every day in practice. That's what I took from it."
Stoltenberg said he's been working for this moment — the fact that he battled back from injury makes it even more special. "It means a lot knowing what I went through, with the knee injury and (for me) to come back," Stoltenberg said. "And being able to earn it. But regardless, it's just a huge honor."
Other notes from Tuesday's practice:
>> Junior Kieron Williams — set to start at safety Saturday in place of the suspended Gerry — wasn't wearing a black jersey Tuesday. Defensive coordinator Mark Banker said Williams has improved, but he still has more to prove. Williams was one of five players who just missed the cut, according to Banker.
>> Banker said the Nebraska coaching staff has watched old game tape of Washington, Alabama and Kansas — essentially tracking back on the career path of Eric Kiesau (Fresno State's first-year offensive coordinator). Still, the Huskers don't exactly know what to expect, according to Banker.
>> Linebackers coach Trent Bray indicated that he will do everything he can to keep his position group fresh Saturday. The unit has depth this year — and he plans to use it. So expect to see a decent amount of substituting at linebacker in NU's opener. "It'll make our group, as a defense, concentrate on their technique," Banker said.
>> Sophomore Antonio Reed (undisclosed) didn't practice Tuesday. If he's unavailable for Saturday, it appears that NU will slot Newby into the dime back role. Banker said Newby's been taking reps at that spot in practice.