The Husker Nation Tour made a stop late Tuesday morning at Sid Dillon Chevrolet in Fremont.
University of Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander and defensive backs coach Travis Fisher, both in their first year with the Huskers, discussed their outlook for the 2018 season.
Nebraska begins the Scott Frost coaching era against Akron on Sept. 1 in Lincoln.
The Huskers finished 4-8 and missed a bowl game in head coach Mike Riley’s final season in Lincoln. Chinander said after taking the job last winter he didn’t see enough players who loved the game. Losing seasons can take a toll.
“But I think that changed over the spring,” Chinander said. “I think it is starting to get much, much better.”
Chinander, a former offensive lineman for Iowa, also talked about one of the traditions for the Huskers — the coveted Blackshirts that are usually awarded to defensive starters.
“Right now we have this many Blackshirts on our team,” he said, making a “zero” symbol with his hand. “I think it will remain that way probably until we see somebody play in a game. There might be a couple of guys we want to have them through (the preseason camp) who have earned them, but I want to see them play before they are going to go ahead and get them.”
If a player does earn a Blackshirt, he will have to battle all season to keep it. Nothing will be assumed or given away.
“Those kids are going to earn them,” he said. “It is going back to where ... you open your locker on Tuesday morning and there were probably some tears rolling. I don’t think that was always the way it was, but I want it to be a special thing. It’s going to be back to being the greatest tradition in college football.”
Fisher has the job of trying to repair a secondary that was torched in several big games last season. He only had eight scholarship defensive backs during spring practice.
Earlier this month, the Huskers added Will Jackson, a cornerback from Mesa (Arizona) Community College. He will be eligible this fall.
While Fisher wants to increase the quality and quantity of his secondary, he will be choosy about the type of athlete he brings on campus.
“I’m being very careful on who I bring in,” he said. “I don’t want to bring in an entitled five-star player or four-star player. I’ve already got that guy. I want to bring in a guy who can change the guy I’ve got in the room already. I want to change his mind frame by pushing him every day.”
Chinander agreed, stating that the only way the team will get better is by strong intra-team competition.
“The real guys we have will teach that (new) kid to take their spot knowing he can’t ever do it,” he said. “We’ll see how many real guys we’ve got. Eventually we’ll start getting them and they are going to teach these young kids.”
Chinander noted that there are some leaders emerging on the defensive side of the ball, including safety Aaron Williams, linebackers Dedrick Young and Luke Gifford and defensive lineman Mick Stoltenberg.