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5 Nebraska Blackshirts Who Can’t Afford Many First-Game Jitters

Maliek Collins

Maliek Collins

While The Suspension Bowl featuring BYU and Nebraska is going to be handicapped due to several members of both teams on the sideline, the Cougars and Cornhuskers aren’t left entirely wanting for talent.

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How defensive coordinator Mark Banker’s first set of Blackshirts handle Taysom Hill likely determines whether or not the people of Lincoln go home happy.

Related: Nebraska Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2015

Mistakes always happen during the first game of the season, but these five Big Red defenders can’t make too many for the Huskers to win the day.

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1. Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins

Arguably the best player on Nebraska’s defense (if not the team), Collins isn't just only one of the most important players when it comes to stopping Hill. He’s also the least likely to be intimidated by any Cougar offensive lineman. He’s not referred to as “Baby Suh” by his teammates for nothing.

2. Defensive Tackle Vincent Valentine

Next to Collins is his partner in crime, “Big Vince.” These two form one of the best defensive tandems in the Big Ten conference and will be critical in defining both defensive success and how the team performs overall. Valentine will aid Collins in attempting to eat through Hill’s protection and forcing him to the outside.

3. Taysom Hill’s Spy

Whoever this individual is, they need to go into this game accepting the fact that botches will happen and yards will be given up. It’s all about shaking off big plays and trusting the back seven once Hill gets to the second level.

The Huskers do have a quality veteran in linebacker Josh Banderas. However, youngsters such as Dedrick Young and Tyrin Ferguson will get plenty of snaps and going against Hill is no easy way to start your college football career.

4. Safety Nate Gerry

A cuddly safety known as “Bane” to his friends, Gerry is no stranger to interceptions, tackles for a loss and forced fumbles. His role will likely be that of turning Hill’s tall and talented receivers black and blue underneath their pads.

5. The Cornerback Opposite Daniel Davie

This player is as vital as Hill’s spy. Thanks to Jonathan Rose's suspension, this looks to be Josh Kalu. No. 10 is also Nebraska's starting nickel back, so we may see a non-Blackshirt in redshirt freshman Trai Mosley get some snaps as well.

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Cavanaugh is founder of, a site devoted to in-depth Nebraska coverage. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and Periscope (eightlaces), and like his Facebook page.