As a senior he had 15 sacks, five pass breaks ups, four forced fumbles and 25 tackles for loss in his only season playing on defense. He started three years at quarterback and was the team captain for those three years. But what you saw beyond the ability to get up field, was quickness for a man with his size and his potential.
At Nebraska, Carriker really started his career in 2003 as a pass rushing specialist. Early in the year though he suffered an ankle injury and never really returned to form until later that season. His coming out game could have been against Colorado where he registered his only sack that year and got consistent pressure on the quarterback.
In 2004, Carriker opened with a strong spring and was voted as the 2004 lifter of the year. Again though he suffered an ankle injury, on a cheap shot, against Southern Miss. He increased his tackles, tackles for loss, and sack totals despite being hampered by an ankle injury all year long.
As a junior, Carriker has been one of the many reasons that Nebraska's front four has been so successful. They returned letter winners across the front at each position, and it quite possibly is the most experienced and talented units on the entire team.
What Husker fans and coaches really hoped for in 2005 finally happened. Adam was able to stay healthy for an entire year and show was he was truly capable of doing. He has been successful all year despite being held on nearly every play. He has truly brought back the Nebraska defensive end position to the forefront of college football.
Through 11 games, Carriker has 42 total tackles, 16 tackles for a loss of 90 yards, and nine sacks for 78 yards. Beyond statistics though, Carriker has displayed a motor that is reminiscent of most recently Chris Kelsay, and makes you remember the names of Kyle Vanden Bosch, Mike Rucker, and Grant Wistrom.
All of them had to have a little voice in their ear at some point telling them to think about going pro. Wistrom is probably the most well-known case of the previously mentioned players. With him though, and Jason Peter, it was about returning to Nebraska to win that third national title in four years. Carriker and Wistrom's situations differ greatly.
It is highly unlikely to think about Nebraska's team next year as a national title contender. Furthermore Carriker hasn't been able to stay healthy all season until this year. His stock has never been higher. And his size at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds makes him easily as big or bigger than some current NFL defensive ends.
So, why come back? Well, this is a very, very good year for senior and other junior defensive end talent that will be selected in the NFL draft. You have sure fire first round draft pick choices like Tamba Hali from Penn State, Mathias Kiwanuka from Boston College, Elvis Dumervil from Louisville (a bit of a "tweener"), and players like Manny Lawson from N.C. State and Kamerion Wimbley from Florida State that could also hear their names called in the first round, but definitely in the first two to three rounds.
That is an impressive group of senior defensive ends, but beyond that there may even be a more impressive group of junior defensive ends that may make themselves eligible to be drafted this spring. Take for instance Mario Williams from N.C. State, Gaines Adams from Clemson, Quentin Moses from Georgia, Ray Edwards from Purdue, and Ray McDonald from Florida.
While Carriker's year statistically has been better in terms of sacks than most of the aforementioned defensive ends, juniors and seniors, all of the above defensive ends tend to be listed before Adam Carriker on some draft expert's draft boards.
Physically, there may only be one person that compares well to Carriker, and that is probably Mario Williams from N.C. State. Williams is regarded though as a sure-fire first round pick if he decides to come out early.
This decision will not be easy. He has argueably been the biggest part of a resurgence of the Nebraska Blackshirt defense this year. A defense that at times seemed able to outscore the Nebraska offense, and at other times lost composure when they got behind early and never got back into it.
A case could be made for Carriker to return and to leave very easily. He hasn't stayed healthy for an entire season up to this point at Nebraska. The odds are not in his favor that he will again. He was second in tackles for loss and first in sacks this year for Nebraska. When the Nebraska defense was on top of their game it was due in large part to the pressure of Carriker.
On the other hand, there is a very compelling argument that can be made for Carriker to stay. The defensive end position seems to be one of the deepest positions in all of college football this year in terms of potential high draft picks. If he returns next year he would most definitely be a first or latest a second round draft pick next year. The decision to enter the draft this year with a defensive end heavy draft could cast him draft positions and thousands of dollars.
Personally, I have a feeling that Adam Carriker will be playing his last collegiate football game later this year. I don't think that he will return and one can only hope that he is making a decision that is best for him and his family. An argument can be made for him to do either, this could come down to pride, and a want to return Nebraska to be part of a very young team that seems to have brighter days on the horizon.