Pre-USC Interview: Jarek Lancaster

Jarek Lancaster was thrust into the spotlight early this season, forced to step up quickly after Shayne Skov's season-ending knee injury in the season' third week. Questions abounded as to whether the Cardinal defense would be good enough to contain powerful Pac-12 offenses.

Fortunately for Stanford fans, Lancaster has proved to be far more than adequate as Skov's replacement. He recorded a huge day last weekend against Washington, with 10 tackles (including one for loss), a sack and a pass deflection. The Bootleg caught up with Lancaster af Wednesday's practice to talk about his evolution as a starter and the pressures of replacing Skov in the linebacking corps.

The Bootleg: There were a lot of concerns about how well the defense would play afte Shayne went down at Arizona. Do you think you've put those concerns to rest?

Jarek Lancaster: Every week there's a thing to get better at. I don't know why anyone would be concerned—we've still got great players like Michael Thomas, Chase Thomas, Matt Masifilo. And you know, defense is such a team side of the ball. Yeah, I might have stepped in for Shayne but they were all there to just support me. There shouldn't be any more doubts, considering we have so many good players on our defense.

Do you think there's any added pressure on you, since you're replacing Shayne? He was one of your best players on defense and the emotional leader of the unit.

JL: You know, the first game I definitely felt the pressure. It's Shayne Skov, giant shoes to fill. But then I got taken aside by our captain, Michael Thomas, and he said, "Listen: you've been waiting for this chance, this opportunity to finally get on the field. Just settle down and just play some football." That's what I did and thanks to him, I've been playing pretty good.

Do you feel like you're stronger against the run or in pass protection?

JL: Being a linebacker, you definitely want to say you're stronger against the run, and I think that's shown so far—we've been really solid on the run. It also helps having a great defensive line in front of you. It'll definitely be a test this week, so we'll see.

What would you say your top area for improvement would be?

JL: Just getting the calls out. Sometimes I'm a little bit more quiet—I just have to recognize formations quicker and get the call out and relay it.

What's the toughest offense you've gone against so far, and who's the toughest individual quarterback and running back you've played against?

JL: UCLA was a really tough offense, just because they had so many things with the bone formation. They're just shifting all over the place and trying to mess with your eyes—that was a little bit difficult to start with. Obviously, the best quarterback and running back tandem I think that we've ran into so far has been Washington. Polk, their running back, he was a strong powerful runner, and then their quarterback was slinging the ball. But our D-line was lighting them up all night, so it was pretty good.

You guys are playing your first rivalry game of the year this weekend at USC, and the have been some very public incidents over the last few years. Do you think there's any bad blood between your two programs?

JL: I mean, there's no bad blood from our side. But you know, USC is one of those programs where they don't like to be hit in the mouth. They've got tradition on their side and stuff, but we're going to go down there and we're just going to play our game. Like the coaches always say, it's about us—we just gotta go ahead and play our game.

Is there any added motivation because it's a rivalry game?

JL: There's always motivation every game we play, but playing USC down in the Coliseum—you definitely want to go down there and win.

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