Back in Black

There aren't many traditions at Nebraska that are better known than the Blackshirts. The Blackshirt Defense has led Nebraska to conference and national titles. Lately though, the Blackshirts have struggled. With the entire staff on the defensive side of the ball replaced, recruits like Josh Williams and Will Compton got a chance to know both defensive staffs. The changes to them are obvious.

It seems that if one thing might have been missing from the previous defensive staff at Nebraska it might have been attitude. It might not have been missing entirely, but in comparison to other people and other coaches, it's safe to say, that attitude was lacking.

Playing defense is all about emotion. The most fundamentally sound players don't make big plays with their emotions in check. The emotion on defense is the magic carpet ride that makes good players great and also fires up the others around them.

For Will Compton and Josh Williams, the Blackshirt tradition is something that they are interested in getting back into national spotlight. They want to be the first class associated with Bo Pelini and his staff and to turn the ship around.

Both Compton and Williams hail from outside the state, but both were very familiar with what makes the Nebraska Blackshirt defense so special. Compton thinks about the players that have been there before him and came out of Nebraska.

"You think of Grant Wistrom, Mike Rucker and all of the other great players to come out of there," Compton said. "You know that it's just a nationally, recognized place for developing defensive players."

Compton also acknowledged that the Nebraska defense isn't known for having a good defense every now and again. To have a name and a tradition that surrounds the defense like The Blackshirts the defense is good, all the time.

"It's not just a thing that happens once in the while. It's not a thing where the defense is just good that one year. The Blackshirts is something that remains. They got that because they have been great year after year."

For Josh Williams, the Blackshirts to him was more of an ideal. More than just the word, Blackshirts, being what it already is, Williams is convinced that the best is yet to come when it comes to the defenses at Nebraska.

"Their defense is exciting," Williams said. "I think that the Blackshirts are about to go to a place where they have never been before.

Obviously, it's a pretty good situation with a coach there like Bo Pelini and knowing that he has been there before and coming off of a National Championship. It's going to be amazing."

Compton and Williams were part of the network of recruits that became very close when they were originally committed to Nebraska and Bill Callahan. The losses of their position coaches, defensive coordinator, head coach and even athletic director meant that Nebraska, as they knew it, was going to be completely different.

For Compton, this was one of the biggest hurdles in wanting to stay committed to Nebraska. He has seen coaching changes at his high school and the experience hasn't been a positive one, until this year.

What might have kept the idea of Nebraska being the right fit for Compton was the positive experience that he had this past season. There were a lot of similarities that Compton's position coach shares with the new position coach at Nebraska.

"I committed to Nebraska because of the coaching staff. I knew the coaches real well from before. I get a long best with the younger, player's coach. My position coach this year was fresh out of college. The player's, coach is someone that I just relate better to.

"With Coach Ekeler, I just get along with him. I am the same with Bo Pelini. They are both players' coaches. It's great that I will be surrounded by both in Lincoln."

Compton isn't the only one to notice positives in the changes in the defensive staff at Nebraska. The weekend that Compton and Williams visited Nebraska in January the recurring theme was the energy of the new staff.

Williams was a commitment to Colorado when he made the trip to Nebraska in January. The trip was necessary to meet the new coaches in the once familiar place that was occupied by another staff; another staff with a different approach and a new attitude.

"That was the biggest thing for me and wanting to get back into that class. Coach Pelini you can just see him walking around in white tennis shoes and a grey t-shirt on every day. He's just great and fired up. The whole staff is that way. They are all hungry."

The attitude has to start at the top. While it has to start at the top, where the rubber meets the road is through the assistant coaches and ends with the players. If the words of Compton and Williams are any indication, be prepared to throw the bones a lot this year and for years to come.

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