By WENDELL BARNHOUSE
When No. 15 Tennessee plays at No. 12 California tonight, it will be the marquee game of the opening weekend, a nationally televised prime-time contest. For the Bears, it will be about redeeming themselves for last year's season opener, a 35-18 blowout loss in Knoxville. For Tennessee, it will be about getting the 2007 season off to a fast start; in two weeks, the Vols open their Southeastern Conference schedule at defending national champion Florida. And for DeSean Jackson, it could be a chance to introduce himself to the nation. The Cal junior can be a game-breaker as a receiver or as a punt returner. "His breaks are instant. He'll be running full speed and break 90 degrees without slowing down," Cal safety Thomas DeCoud told the San Francisco Chronicle. "He has a sixth sense. He can shake you without even looking at you. If you're going to make a tackle, you almost have to catch him when he's not looking."
Jackson's numbers are impressive. He has 16 touchdown receptions in 24 career games. Last season, he had 28 plays that went for 20 or more yards. In 2006, Jackson returned four punts for touchdowns and has five in his career on 26 returns. The Division I-A career record for punt return touchdowns is eight by Texas Tech's Wes Welker and Oklahoma's Antonio Perkins. Welker had 152 career returns, Perkins had 113. "When he hits a crease, you've just got to hold your breath because he's got such great speed," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said of Jackson's punt returns. "It gets you kind of fired up when he hits a crease, and you look down there to see how many guys are left. If there's only one, it's probably going the distance."