Add junior linebacker Alonzo Whaley to Nebraska’s armada of Blackshirts. He found the black practice jersey hanging in his locker before Tuesday’s practice after solid spot play in NU’s 45-17 loss to Michigan.
This week, Whaley’s splitting No. 1 reps with linebacker Sean Fisher. That, defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said, triggered the Blackshirt.
“If two guys are splitting reps equally or they’re starting in a certain personnel group, we give them a Blackshirt,” Pelini said, explaining the Huskers’ 2011 philosophy more in depth than previous interviews.
The key to Whaley getting more playing time? The junior said it was stronger work in the classroom, where he had been “lagging” when the season began.
“They knew I can play football,” Whaley said. “But I just got a good grade report — I got my grades the way they’re supposed to be. Bo (Pelini) is that type of guy. What they build here is ‘we want to trust you off the field.’ I think that had a lot to do with me getting a chance.”
The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder isn’t sure he’ll start Friday. With a good week of practice, Carl Pelini said, there’s a good chance he will against Iowa, which runs a pro-style offense.
“He’s been too much of a thinker,” Pelini said. “It slowed him down. Now I see him much more aggressive and playing more physical, tackling harder. Just more decisive in his movements.”