A tradition dating back to 1964, wearing a black practice jersey during the fall is one of the highest honors that any Nebraska defender can hope to achieve.
It has become especially difficult to hang onto one of these coveted jerseys, as much like Bo Pelini can giveth, he has shown that he can also taketh away.
While a blackshirt will also likely be given to Nebraska’s eventual nickel back, along with potentially the starting punter and/or kicker at the end of the year, there will be at least 11 black practice jerseys awarded at some point.
Which players have the inside track?
Weight: 260 pounds
Williams has been working to refine his skill set ever since joining the team in 2008.
He saw playing time in all 13 games last season, backing up starter Pierre Allen, Sr.
Williams was credited with 12 TKL, one QBH and one FF in 2010.
Weight: 285 pounds
Crick is easily the leader of the defensive line and of the overall team.
The returning defensive lineman looks to provide Nebraska a cornerstone for the defensive attack.
A semifinalist for the Rotary Lombardi Award in 2010, Crick was credited with 70 TKL (36 solo), 17 TFL, 9.5 SCK, two PBU, 10 QBH and one FF.
Crick will likely claim all-conference honors and be a candidate for several defensive awards heading into next season.
Weight: 290 pounds
Steinkuhler had a rollercoaster of a year, standing out in certain situations, while being locked down in others.
Still, the junior looks to line up alongside Crick for the duration of the game, likely rotating with Terrence Moore.
Steinkuhler amassed 46 TKL (15 solo), four TFL, 3.5 SCK, two PBU and four QBH in 2010.
Another year under Nebraska strength and conditioning coach James Dobson should serve Baker well heading into his first year as an upperclassman.
Weight: 260 pounds
Meredith has worked well at the end position ever since starting fresh off of an injury sustained the year before.
He provided 64 TKL (34 solo), eight TFL, 1.5 SCK, one PBU and 10 QBH last season.
Meredith’s size and natural speed has aided his continued success in increasing his skills every year.
With another offseason of work under his belt, all signs point to him beginning his upperclassman years in the Big Ten.
Weight: 235 pounds
Stoddard is a name that should become fairly well-known during the 2011 season.
He only accounted for 12 TKL last year, but did play in every game, primarily on special teams.
With Nebraska’s excessive use of the "Peso" defense last season, Stoddard’s presence wasn’t necessary with the duo of Lavonte David and Alonzo Whaley or Will Compton at MIKE linebacker.
As the Cornhuskers potentially shift towards a heavier 4-3 base entering the Big Ten, look for Stoddard’s name to appear more often.
Weight: 230 pounds
Unfortunately, Compton had to sit out about half of 2010 with an injury, but returned in solid form and was able to provide a spark at the MIKE linebacker position.
Expect him to lock the spot down again for 2011.
In his limited playing time, he accumulated 15 TKL, one TFL and one SCK.
Weight: 220 pounds
After becoming Nebraska’s all-time leading single-season tackler and the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, David’s eventual blackshirt is one of the safest picks.
He will likely never leave the field, regardless of formation, much as he was used in 2010.
The Cornhuskers are lucky to have a talent like David in their defensive back seven.
Weight: 185 pounds
The youthful Evans stepped in when Alfonzo Dennard went down with a concussion versus Missouri.
It only took a few plays to show the fantastic athleticism that this young man has.
Evans would play in eight games, starting one, eventually spelling cornerbacks on a regular basis as the season came to a close.
While there should be a hard-fought battle for the position opposite Dennard, Evans has the inside track to wear black on the practice field come the fall.
Weight: 205 pounds
Once Dennard announced that he was returning for his senior year, his black practice jersey was essentially guaranteed.
Alfonzo was credited with 30 TKL (18 solo), four INT, seven PBU, one QBH and one FF.
Dennard will be looked to as the veteran in Nebraska’s secondary, but he’s far from the only weapon that the Cornhuskers have in the back four.
Weight: 200 pounds
Much like Evans, Osborne made his presence felt as the season rolled along, and in many cases, quite literally.
Former Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert can attest to that.
Osborne played in all 14 games and started four, while racking up 41 TKL (21 solo), five TFL, one SCK and one INT.
The 6’3” safety out of Garland, Texas has a high ceiling and is just the type of player that Nebraska needs for proper secondary play in the Big Ten.
Weight: 210 pounds
Cassidy is one of the most cerebral players, not only in the secondary, but on the entire defensive unit.
Many compare his work to that of former Cornhusker Matt O’Hanlon, who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
Cassidy played in all games last year, starting in half of them.
He laid claim to 48 TKL (24 solo), and one INT.
The Cornhuskers couldn’t ask for a more intelligent last line of defense.
Join the Anti-Offseason Crew!
Football news, reviews and much more awaits! Follow Brandon on Twitter (@eightlaces) and be sure to catch the HuskersGameday.com podcasts for the latest Nebraska Cornhuskers news, discussion and general football merriment!