Senior safety Aaron Williams was the only additional Nebraska defender to earn a Blackshirt this week, bringing the total to eight as the Huskers enter Big Ten play.
Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said Williams has done well on and off the field the past two weeks, which included a five-tackle effort to go with a pass breakup against Troy. Williams missed much of the offseason recovering from a shoulder injury and didn’t return to live action until Aug. 20.
He found the new jersey in his locker Monday.
“Practice-wise, he’s played pretty well the last few weeks,” Chinander said. “We thought that he kind of took over that (safety) spot and he’s given us some leadership. So he’s the one that earned a Blackshirt this week.”
He joins defensive linemen Mick Stoltenberg and Freedom Akinmoladun; linebackers Mo Barry, Dedrick Young, Luke Gifford and Tyrin Ferguson; and cornerback Dicaprio Bootle in donning the honorary black jersey of the first-team defense.
“I recognize how big it is for every Blackshirt that ever wore a Blackshirt here,” defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said. “It’s not just about Aaron, but it’s the guys before him.”
Defense faces new challenges
The challenges will be twofold for Nebraska’s defense this weekend: its first game on the road and its first look at a non-spread offense.
Inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud said playing against a pro-style attack is more the exception than the norm in this era of spread-’em-out college football. Chinander said Michigan will test the Huskers’ ability to stop the run more than either of their first two opponents.
Still, the defensive coordinator added, the Wolverines get much of their yardage through the air in power sets after chipping away at teams on the ground.
“The DBs gotta have their eyes right because it’s gonna be pound the rock, pound the rock, pound the rock, bombs away,” Chinander said. “And that’s kind of where they get their big chunks.”
Chinander said the staff’s experience coaching at Michigan two years ago — a 51-14 loss in Frost’s second game at UCF — was a turning point to help that group of players believe it could play with anyone. This Nebraska unit is also coming together and still learning what it can become.
“I think this is going to be a good test for us to stop the run,” Chinander said. “Also a good test for us just as a defense and a team. I think we’re going to find out a lot about ourselves this week.”
» Chinander said each Troy drive that produced points contained NU assignment errors. One was in coverage and one included two Huskers going for the dive and neither sticking with the quarterback on an option run that backup Sawyer Smith took for 57 yards.
“A couple little details led to us giving up some points,” Chinander said. “… Can’t make those mistakes, especially anytime there’s a backup quarterback in.”
» Ruud said linebacker Will Honas, a transfer from Butler Community College, played “like I expected” while taking on additional snaps after Barry was ejected for targeting in the second quarter Saturday. Ruud said the plan remains to play Honas regularly, though obviously not as much as against Troy, when he netted a team-best eight tackles.
» Sophomore safety JoJo Domann did not practice Tuesday, Fisher said. Domann didn’t play at all against Troy after participating regularly on every punt and kickoff unit in the opener.
“It’s a medical issue,” Fisher said, “but I don’t know.”
Nebraska at Michigan
When: 11 a.m. Saturday (Pregame: 6 a.m.)
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Radio: 103.1 FM