Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick is coming off the game of his career, after producing 13 tackles and five sacks in the Cornhuskers’ victory over Baylor last week.
We caught up with the 6-foot-6, 285-pound sophomore earlier this week to talk about that big game, how much fun it is playing next to Ndamukong Suh and his thoughts on the upcoming game against Oklahoma.
You produced one of the most memorable defensive games in the history of the Big 12 last week against Baylor. Is there anything you did differently the night before or in your pre-game preparation that can explain what you did?
Jared Crick: I had a bunch of family from all over Texas at the game. There were a bunch of people there, probably like about 35 relatives. It gave me a little more energy and initiative knowing they were watching me. And plus, I have great teammates. It was easy for me to have a game like that because they were playing so hard.
Did any of those aunts bring you any treats or anything that helped fuel your performance?
JC: No, not really (laughing). I couldn’t see them until after the game and then, only got a chance to see them for a few minutes. And they didn’t bring me any treats.
Were there any special schemes that Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini cooked up that enabled you to have the big game?
JC: It was just my teammates, basically. They wanted to double-team [Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong] Suh and the defensive ends did a great job. I have to credit the three guys next to me. It was a group effort and was as much of those guys putting in the extra work and making things happen as anything else.
How much credit do you give to the fact you play next to Suh along Nebraska’s defensive front?
JC: It all starts with Suh. He’s present and is a force in the middle and he’s always attracting a double-team block. It gives me and the other two guys a chance to have one-on-one coverage. And whenever we get that, we have the opportunity to go as strong as we can.
Have you seen many double-team blocks this season?
JC: I’ve seen a couple of them, but not nearly as many as Suh. I saw a couple of them the week before last against Iowa State, but that was just the scheme they were running. I didn’t see one last week.
Your team’s defense has really come along in recent games, allowing opponents 280 yards or less in the last seven games. Where has that development come from?
JC: We expected to be a confident, strong group this season as a defense. We didn’t really set a bar for how high we could go. We’ve just tried to take things day by day and get better each time we go out there.
You have an opportunity to play and watch Suh all the time. Give me an idea of how dominant a player he really is.
JC: Just going into every game, I know he’ll win every time. I know that Suh will dominate the game by himself and that will open up things for all of us. He has the skills, but he’s also very football-smart and he’s got every facet of the game down. When you add it all together, it just spells dominance in what he does.
Since you arrived at college, you moved from defensive end to defensive tackle. Have you gotten more comfortable at your new position as you’ve gained experience there?
JC: I definitely think it worked out well. When Coach Bo [Pelini] and Coach Carl asked me to move, I had never played inside. I wouldn’t say I was hesitant, but maybe a little nervous, just because I really didn’t know techniques and was a little underweight. But once they saw I had potential, they worked with me every day and helped make me into a player. I’m doing whatever I can do to try and improve. The transition wasn’t too tough, but without them, it would have been difficult to impossible. They had faith in me.
How much weight have you added since you moved inside?
JC: I’ve added about 25 pounds since last summer and about 35 pounds overall. I feel pretty good at the weight. It was a little tough when I first gained it because I felt kind of sluggish like I had lost some speed and agility. But after working with [Nebraska strength] Coach [James] Dobson, I actually feel faster. I feel like I put on the right weight. I felt a little sloppy and out of shape at times, but once I started working out, I started feeling comfortable with the weight.
What’s the biggest change in moving from defensive end to defensive tackle?
JC: From a running perspective, the only people who cover you at defensive end are a tackle or the tight end. So you have a lot of space to operate. Moving inside can get kind of claustrophobic, especially when you are facing centers who weigh 290 and guards who weigh maybe 315. At first, it was a big adjustment for me. But from a pass-rusher's perspective, we still try to get after people. I think anybody will tell you at defensive end, you get more space to do a wide rush so maybe you can rise and counter a little. The positions are a little different in terms of technique, but you’ve still got to be aggressive wherever you play.
Does the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry still resonate for people across your state?
JC: When I was young and growing up and watching Nebraska and Oklahoma every year in the Big Eight, it was the biggest game. But now that they don’t play every year, it’s lost a little of its intensity. But it’s still a big thing for us, watching the rivalry and knowing about the guys who have played in it. To be able to play in a game like this is a huge honor and everybody is excited about it.
Despite your team’s struggles, you still have a good shot at winning the North if you can run the table. How will that affect how your team plays on Saturday night against Oklahoma and during the rest of the season?
JC: We’re a very determined group. Our goals are still on the board for us. We want to get to Arlington and get a shot at playing in the Big 12 title game. We’re still very determined to get that goal. It hasn’t always gone the way we wanted this season, but it won’t stop us from playing hard and still pursuing what is still in front of us.