Monday wasn’t the first time Dicaprio Bootle found a Blackshirt hanging in his locker.
Yet Bootle, a sophomore cornerback, felt more of a sense of accomplishment this time.
“I think it’s safe to say I felt better this year than I did last year,” Bootle said. “I just felt like I really earned it, especially with them holding out on the Blackshirts for the first game, not just giving them to everybody, I felt like I really earned this one.”
Not only did Nebraska’s coaches wait a game until awarding Blackshirts — the coveted, traditional practice jersey reserved for top defensive players — they were very selective in determining who whey felt deserved one. For now, seven players – Bootle, Tyrin Ferguson, Mohamed Barry, Dedrick Young II, Luke Gifford, Mick Stoltenberg and Freedom Akinmoladun – are back in black.
“We want the Blackshirt to mean something,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said Monday at his weekly news conference. “We’re not just going to give them to everybody that plays because they’re playing. It’s not a one game thing; it’s a body of work thing.”
Several other players, Frost said, are on the verge of Blackshirt status. He mentioned defensive linemen, in particular, junior twins Carlos and Khalil Davis, who played hard and made plays against Colorado.
“We had a lot of guys on defense that played well enough to earn Blackshirts,” Frost said. “We’re just not going to give them all out at once. Several more deserved it from the game, but I expect them to get it soon.”
Bootle had two pass breakups, including a near interception of a deep pass, and collected three tackles against Colorado. Frost said Bootle played physical and was in the right position all the time.
“Obviously there were a couple great plays by (Colorado), honestly, on fades with throws and catches that he was involved in,” Frost said, “but just taking his full body of work from spring ball and camp and how he played in that game, I’m glad to be able to give him (a Blackshirt).”
Bootle also played every play on defense.
“I anticipate playing a lot. Playing every snap, I’m not complaining about it,” Bootle said. “I’m happy to be out there every snap. That says a lot about our strength and conditioning program, for me to go out there and be able to play 100-plus snaps.”
Barry, a junior inside linebacker, had a career-high 12 tackles against Colorado in his first career start. He also had a tackle for a 6-yard loss.
And who better to receive a Blackshirt from than the program’s all-time tackles leader, linebackers coach Barrett Ruud?
“He did a lot for this program, so for him to give not only me, but me and Dedrick our Blackshirts … I know it means a lot to us because I know it means a lot to him,” Barry said. “It was a great feeling.”
Nebraska collected seven sacks – already halfway to last season’s total – against a Colorado team that allowed no sacks in its first game of the season. The Huskers came at the Buffaloes with pressure from all angles, and sometimes with just a surge up front.
Senior running back Devine Ozigbo said he’d never seen the defense play with such energy.
“That was cool to watch,” he said.
Now that players understand the standard of energy and effort, it’s time for the next step, Barry said.
“We have to tune up those fine details,” Barry said. “The third down, just the small things that got us beat. We had the opportunity to put away the game, and as a defensive player you pray for moments like that, to put away the game.”
The fact Nebraska didn’t – Colorado scored late for a 33-28 victory – left players with an empty, hungry feeling come practice time Monday morning.
“There was a really good sense of urgency,” said Gifford, a senior linebacker who had a career-high 11 tackles. “Starting off in the weight room this morning, we got after it. We went out to practice and got after it again. I was proud of the guys and how everyone responded. It was definitely a good start to the week.”
Said Bootle: “I know we’re definitely headed in the right direction because of how everybody felt after that game and the just sour taste we all had in our mouth.”