Nebraska's defense just took a huge hit today.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers' All-American defensive tackle Jared Crick has a torn pectoral muscle injury that will sideline the senior for the rest of the year, the team announced Wednesday.

Crick was a second-team All-American last year and a two-time first-team All-Big 12 honoree. He has been projected as a first-round NFL pick and ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has him ranked him No. 18 overall on his most recent 2012 Big Board.

In a statement released by the school, coach Bo Pelini praised Crick as a team leader and a young man who has represented this program in a first-class manner throughout his career. He noted Crick had decided to return to Nebraska to finish his senior season and earn his degree, turning down big money to play pro.

I feel extremely bad for Jared, Pelini said. Jared has a bright future in front of him on the field at the professional level. I know he will bounce back from this, and become a stronger player and person.

After consecutive season with 9½ sacks in 2009 and 2010, Crick's numbers were a little down this season. He finished with 22 tackles and one sack in five games.

Crick, who also experienced a head injury earlier in the season, causing him to miss the Sept. 24 Wyoming game, ranks eighth on Nebraska's all-time sack list with 20.

It is a tough blow for our football team to lose a player of Jared's caliber, but we have players that are capable of stepping up and filling the void, Pelini said.

Pelini also said Tuesday morning that he planned to give Crick some time off during the bye week to rest up, but further tests showed the muscle tear injury.

With Crick out, other defensive leaders must step up for a Nebraska defense that hasn't played to expectations thus far. Linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard are the first two that come to mind. Veteran defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler becomes a vital replacement for the Huskers in Crick's absence. The good thing is Nebraska has depth on its D-line, comprised of Terrence Moore, Thaddeus Randle and Chase Rome.

The 14th-ranked Huskers (5-1) are idle this week and will return to action Oct. 22 at Minnesota against the Golden Gophers.