Randy Gregory is Nebraska football’s defensive freak, we all know this. Not only is he the reigning Big Ten sack leader (9.5), but potential top 10 NFL draft prospect. Still, publications leave him off their preseason All-American teams.
Sports Illustrated is the latest to leave RG4 off it’s first-team All-American squad, instead selecting Clemson’s Vic Beasley, USC’s Leonard Williams and Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun.
How does Gregory exceed these expectations in 2014 and claim his spot on that list?
The junior defensive end has looked good at fall camp so far this year, sweeping by any tackle not named Alex Lewis. Translation: Teams better have some damn good offensive tackles if they plan on stopping Gregory.
Looking at Nebraska’s schedule, I don’t think many teams have the talent on their offensive lines to keep Gregory from having one field day after another.
Only Nebraska’s budding rivals Wisconsin and Iowa have outstanding outside linemen that may be able to keep Gregory in check (The Badgers’ Rob Havenstein and Tyler Marz and the Hawkeyes’ Brandon Scherff).
Even talented big bodies can’t always neutralize Gregory, as evidenced by his best performance in 2013 (3 sacks) coming against Michigan’s All-American Taylor Lewan.
It may be his performances versus the best 2014 opponents that make the difference. Unlike last year, Nebraska’s schedule sets up well to provide opportunities to grab the nations attention and pad stats.
If the Blackshirt defensive end wants to bring home some hardware at the end of the year, strong performances against Miami (FL), Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa are a must.
The game in East Lansing, MI is particularly important. Not only does it figure to be Nebraska’s toughest game (on prime time TV, no less), but Gregory can knock out one of his competitors by significantly outperforming the Spartans’ stud DE Shilique “The Freak” Calhoun.
Of course, team success is also a major factor. Name recognition is an important piece of the puzzle, so Nebraska needs to be at least competing for the conference crown to keep the nation’s eyes fixated on the Huskers’ beast.
Let’s make no bones about it though, the single most important factor in RG4 earning first team All-American honors will be his sack numbers with tackles for loss being the garnish.
It’s a shame quarterback hurries aren’t factored more, but it’s all about bringing the signal-caller down.
Gregory had 9.5 sacks last season. More encouraging is the fact that he had 8 sacks in the final 8 games. He had just arrived to campus, so it took some game experience to acclimate to the competition.
However, you could see him developing rapidly as teammates starting calling him “The Sackless Wonder” after the first few games in 2013.
This year, he’ll be ready from game one. Thus, the sack number should start piling up immediately. Given his experience and talent, RG4 should have a chance to meet or exceed Nebraska’s single season record of 15 sacks held by Trev Alberts and Jim Skow.
If Gregory gets close to that record, it would be difficult to argue leaving him off any All-American list.
Be sure to like Husker Corner on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, snag the FanSided app (iOS) (Android) and subscribe to our newsletter below to keep plugged into Husker Nation from all over the globe.