IRVING, Texas - It was the first question asked to junior defensive tackle Jared Crick when he sat down with reporters during the Nebraska players' portion of Big 12 Conference Media Days on Monday.
How much more pressure do you feel not having Ndamukong Suh lining up next to you anymore?
Just like he did when he was bombarded with the same question throughout spring practice, the preseason first-team All-Big 12 selection said all he could do was continue to work hard and do his part within the scheme of the defense.
But as more and more questions about replacing a Heisman Trophy candidate and what many consider the best defensive player ever at NU, Crick quickly learned the only way he could escape from under the enormous shadow left by Suh was to prove himself on the field without him.
"It's just something I've got to prove to myself," Crick said. "With Suh there or someone else, I've still got to do my job. No matter what, my job comes first. If I do my job and everybody else does their job, we're going to be fine."
While Suh obviously stole all the headlines last season, Crick put together a dominant season of his own, ranking fourth on the team in tackles (73), third in tackles for loss (15) and second in quarterback sacks (9.5).
As a result, he was named the preseason Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year along with Texas A&M's Von Miller, and expectations are soaring for what he achieve in the next two seasons.
Crick admitted things would definitely be different without Suh by his side, but stood firm on his belief that the task won't only be up to him to accomplish.
"It's going to be a little different knowing the big guy isn't going to be there, but the thing about us is we play team defense," he said. "Whether we have 11 pro bowlers playing with us or whoever, it's team defense, and if one guy doesn't do his job the whole defense is going to break down."
He may not think it will fall completely on his shoulders, but Allen said he believed Crick was more than capable of picking up right where Suh left off.
"He's a great player," Allen said. "A lot of people might credit some of his success last year to Suh and the double teams, triple teams or quadruple teams he got, but he's a great player. I think he'll be the same or even better this year."
Crick said he's been preparing all offseason for the undeniable increased attention opponents will give him in their blocking schemes. Now, he'll be the one drawing all of the double and triple teams.
As long as he continues to help his team win and the defense continues to perform at the level it did last year, Crick will gladly take on whatever role he needs to.
"I go out and challenge myself every single game, so it's not really a big jump for me without Suh if I have to take the whole defense on my back," Crick said. "Offense's may not double team me as much as they did Suh, they might not respect me as much as they did Suh, but I'm going to anticipate it and I'm going to prepare for it. I'm going to prepare for everything they want to throw at us."
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