Pelini expects another big year from Crick

Nebraska’s Jared Crick put up big numbers last season because

opposing offenses were so preoccupied with trying to contain

Ndamukong Suh.

The popular argument is that Crick can validate his 9 1/2-sack

season only by doing it again this year without Suh at his

side.

Coach Bo Pelini disagrees, saying game films show that opponents

schemed against Crick as much as they did against Suh.

”I don’t think he has anything to prove,” Pelini said. ”The

only thing he has to prove is that he can get better. You can also

say the argument that Suh benefited from having Crick next to him.

It’s a two-way street.”

Suh, a high-profile rookie with the Detroit Lions, and Crick

teamed up to make the Huskers hard to handle in the middle last

season.

With Crick as the anchor and more seasoned players available,

Pelini predicts the defense can be even better than the 2009 group

that allowed a nation-best 10.4 points a game and ranked among the

top 10 in stopping the run and total defense.

An All-Big 12 first-team pick a year ago, Crick comes into his

junior season as a preseason All-American and conference

co-defensive player of the year.

”If at the end of the season I have the same credibility or

same hype as at the beginning,” he said, ”then I did my

job.”

The Crick hype is fueled by eye-popping statistics for an

interior lineman, including: 73 tackles, 15 for loss, 16

quarterback hurries. And don’t forget the 9 1/2 sacks.

A school-record five came against Baylor, the top single-game

sack total in the nation last year.

Pelini said he doesn’t want Crick to feel pressure to produce

similar numbers.

”It’s about playing well within the scheme,” Pelini said.

”Sometimes you’re going to get stats, tackles for losses.

Sometimes that’s not going to happen but you can play a really good

football game.

”If he keeps it in perspective, plays within the scheme and

does the things he’s been taught to do and improve on what he did

last year, he’s going to have a great year. How that measures up to

expectations outside, that’s not something he needs to concern

himself with.”

Even with Suh gone, Crick should get more help this year. Baker

Steinkuhler is the front-runner to start alongside Crick, with

Terrence Moore and Thaddeus Randle joining them in a rotation.

The Huskers also like their depth on the ends. Pierre Allen and

Cameron Meredith are backed up by Josh Williams and Jason

Ankrah.

”We’re going to be fresher and healthier, and they’re all going

to contribute,” defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. ”You may

not see one guy with those kinds of stats, but I expect our

defensive line as a whole to not have any drop-off.”

Crick flourished early last season while offenses double- and

triple-teamed Suh.

”That just gave me the freedom to rush one-on-one with the

blocker,” Crick said, ”and every time I won, I either made a play

or helped the defense out in some way.”

The stats bear that out. In the first eight games, Crick had 8

1/2 of his sacks, 49 tackles and 13 tackles for loss. In the final

six games, when he drew more attention, he was credited with half a

sack two times, 24 tackles and two tackles for loss.

Crick said he has improved his strength since last season, which

should enhance his game.

”Last year I used my speed to my advantage more than anything

else,” he said. ”This year I feel stronger. I’m still going to

use my speed, but being stronger is going to intensify my game and

help me out in other ways.”

Whether Crick clogs the middle and funnels traffic to the

outside, or whether he piles up another stellar number of sacks and

tackles, the 6-foot-6, 286-pounder from rural Cozad won’t

disappoint, Allen said.

”He dominated a lot of guys one-on-one and in double teams, and

you can credit some of it to Suh because Suh is who he is and they

had to triple-team him sometimes,” Allen said. ”I don’t think Suh

being gone is going to make Crick fall off at all. If anything, I

think he’ll have a better year than he did last year.”