Huskies will miss Azeem Victor, but not too much if Keishawn Bierria repeats last year’s Rutgers performance

UW captain Keishawn Bierria says the Huskies believe in the philosophy of ‘next man up.’ That will be tested without the preseason All-American.

Keishawn Bierria knew for some time Azeem Victor, his good friend and fellow Washington Huskies inside linebacker, would miss Friday’s season-opener at Rutgers.

They talked about the mishap, which resulted in Victor’s one-game suspension for violating team rules. And Bierria, a UW captain, believes the Huskies have enough veteran leaders to overcome the loss of one of their defensive stars.

“Things happen,” Bierria said. “That’s my boy, but things happen. He’s got to bounce back from it. And I’m all the way with him on that.”


Washington at Rutgers, 5 p.m., FS1

For now, the Huskies will travel to Piscataway Township, N.J. — their first road opener since a 16-13 loss at Boise State in 2015 — without Victor, a preseason All-American who was the team’s top tackler with 67 (6.7 per game) last season before suffering a season-ending leg injury in Week 10.

The Huskies were 9-0 with Victor and 3-2 without him in 2016.

“We didn’t play with him at the end of last season so in a way, this is nothing new,” said Bierria, a second-team all-Pac-12 performer who had 70 tackles last season. “The one thing we’ve always been preaching is next man up. You don’t know what’s going to happen in a game or in a season. You don’t know how the next few weeks or months are going to play out.

“We always preach to our guys to make sure you’re ready to go. Right now somebody else is getting their name called. That’s huge. And down the line, that’s going to help us.”

Washington’s depth chart lists junior Ben Burr-Kirven as Victor’s backup. The 6-foot and 222-pound Menlo Park, Calif., native finished with 44 tackles while playing in every game last season.

“Ben is an exceptional player,” Bierria said. “He knows pretty much every linebacker position. He has game reps at every position. He’s played in big games at every position. So I expect him to do what he does best and play football.”

Heading into his senior season, Bierria, a three-year starter, could make life easy for Washington in its opener if he replicates last year’s dazzling performance in the opener when he finished with a career-high 12 tackles during a 48-13 win over Rutgers at Husky Stadium.

“That was just an amazing start,” said Bierria, who forced a…

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