Nebraska Cornhuskers Back-7 Blackshirt Stars: Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard

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Defense is a tradition in Lincoln, Nebraska. The “Blackshirts” are a legendary point of pride for the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football program, and this year’s unit looks especially special. There are future NFL stars and potential national award winners in all three position groups. We’ll get to DTs Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler later.

For now, let’s focus on seniors LB Lavonte David and CB Alfonzo Dennard.

David was described by NU Defensive Coordinator Carl Pellini as “another quick reactor that has a great feel for the box. He just always seems to be around the football. He has that knack that great linebackers have and is equally good defending the run and the pass. He’s a very balanced player.”

Lavonte is a junior college transfer who set the school record for single season tackles last year.

But David knows what he can do to perform even better this season:

“more physicality, breaking down defenses, and knowing what to expect when you see a certain formation. And communication, I struggled in that a little bit last sseason, but I know everything is going to work out well, because we’re running a three-linebacker set this year, with guys coming back who know the system,” David said.

Given the Huskers move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten, meaning they’ll face more run-oriented offenses, and less pass-happy systems, they’ll use three linebackers this year; instead of two LBs and the Peso position (a nickel back/LB hybrid). David has a special NFL role model.

“Ray Lewis, I just like his style of play and the type of motivator he is. I try to copy him as much as I can, but at the same time do my style, stuff he can do I can’t do and stuff I can do he can’t do. So I just take bits and pieces of that.” David said.

Go here for a feature on Rex Burkhead’s impact on the Nebraska running game, past present and future

Go here for a feature on NU National Champion cornerback Wes Mabin’s nephew Jordan Mabin becoming a star at Northwestern

Alfonzo Dennard is a 5-foot-10, 205-pound senior from Rochelle, Ga who had 4INTs and 7 PBUs last year. He returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the NU regular-season win at Washington. Dennard was good enough to consider jumping to the NFL last season, but obviously elected to return.

He was a first-team All-Big 12 selection last season despite being overshadowed by New York Giants first-round draft pick and teammate Prince Amukamara.

“Put him on an island, he’ll just take care of his job. He’s a good listener, coachable. great guy/person, we hang out a lot of the field as well,” David said about his friend Dennard.

Fonzo suffered a pulled leg muscle in practice earlier this week, and is now out indefinitely. But it is considered a short-term injury.

“I don’t know when he’s going to be back,” Pelini said after practice Wednesday morning. “It could be two days, it could be 10 days. I don’t know. I don’t think the trainers know. I don’t think anybody knows. It’s just how quickly his leg responds.”

Nebraska is 16 days from the season opener vs. Tennessee-Chattanooga on Sept. 3, so there is a chance Dennard could return in time. He’s a critical component to the season, and Crick gave him a ringing endorsement at media day.

“He’s kind of like me, a blue-collar guy, who’s going to out-work you, and the best thing about Fonzo, he never gives up on the ball. He may get beat off the line, but he’s going to hustle the guy down and still make a play. He has a lot of the tools, and that’s what makes him one of the best in the nation. But what I think separates him is his mentality,” Crick said.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports 

He does regular weekly radio spots in Chicago and Cleveland and has appeared on live shows all across the world from Houston to New Zealand. You can follow him on Twitter

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