After a little over three grueling weeks of fall camp, Monday’s midday press conference was filled with anticipation as the Huskers moved into their first game week of the year.
“We’re excited,” head coach Scott Frost said. “I think the whole team is looking forward to competing against someone else other than against each other.”
Junior transfer running back Dedrick Mills is feeling that excitement having yet to experience his first walk out of the tunnel.
“I don’t even know that feeling right now,” Mills said. “I’m just too excited right now before the game has even started.”
With the arrival of game week also came the arrival of the Blackshirts.
This year, Frost unveiled them differently as he had ex-Blackshirts come to practice to personally hand Blackshirts to the deserving players. Some of the ex-players who presented Blackshirts were Kenny Wilhite, Jason Peter and Barrett Ruud. 14 players received Blackshirts, including senior linebacker Mohamed Barry, who received his from Ruud, his position coach.
“In the past it would just be awarded to you in your locker and you would come in and see a Blackshirt and almost faint,” Barry said. “This year, you had the people who actually wore that shirt and did something with it and now the shirt is not just a shirt. It comes to life.”
“This was kind of a spur of the moment thing,” Frost said. “We didn’t just want to have a lot of Blackshirts show up in guys’ lockers. We wanted it to mean more than that.”
Barry also complimented Mills and his physical, bruising playstyle as well as the friendly rivalry between the two.
“Anyone from Georgia is close to me because I love the brand of football there,” Barry said. “... He points me out and I say ‘you sure you want that,’ but he’s a competitor and that’s what you want.”
“We always talk back and forth,” Mills said. “He makes a play, he talks his junk, I make a play, I talk mine.”
Sticking with the running back room, Frost spoke about the availability of sophomore running back Maurice Washington who has unfinished legal issues in California. He’s next due in court on Sept. 3 which is three days after the opening game.
Frost said they are taking the issue very seriously and will try and make the best decision.
“I’m just coaching a football team,” Frost said. “...We’re taking things very seriously and we’re going to try and do what’s right for everybody involved.”
His availability is still up in the air, but as of now he sits at the top of the running back depth chart along with Mills. If he plays, they will likely split time as Mills is more of a power back while Washington is shiftier and quicker.
The Huskers open their season Aug. 31 against South Alabama with an 11 a.m. kickoff. Television coverage will be provided by ESPN.