Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Contra Costa Times: Tedford ensuring Stevens will play

By Jonathan Okanes
BERKELEY Cal figures to try to do some things differently against Tennessee this time around. One change that coach Jeff Tedford already has decided on is the role that Craig Stevens will play.   "He won't be on kickoff returns," Tedford said. The Bears' chances of beating the Volunteers in their season opener last season took an immediate hit when Stevens suffered a concussion on the opening kickoff.  Stevens is an All-Pac-10 tight end who could have provided a boost to Cal's stagnant running attack in that game. The Bears also open the 2007 season against Tennessee, Saturday at Memorial Stadium.  "Craig is an all-conference tight end. Anytime you lose your tight end on the first play of the game, it's bound to have an effect," Tedford said. "The backups did an adequate job, but Craig is a great player. It will be really nice to have him this year."  The Bears struggled to provide running room for their tailbacks against the Volunteers last season. They rushed for only 64 yards.  "We need to play more physical," Stevens said. "It was real frustrating. That was the first time I really ever got injured in my career. But I'm ready to get back out there. I'm excited to play Tennessee."

The hit on Stevens set a tone for the game, in which the Volunteers were the more physical team. Stevens said it was a clean hit.  "It's part of the game," he said. "It was just the two of us being real aggressive, going at it. I had my head turned a little bit, and he came right down the middle."

IMMEDIATE CONTRIBUTION: Cal freshman Cameron Jordan may be a bit undersized for a defensive lineman, but his speed and athleticism are undeniable.  All one has to do is watch the sprints the Bears run after practice to see the evidence. Jordan is hard to miss as his big body motors down the field like a linebacker.  Jordan enters the opener No. 2 on the depth chart at defensive end.  Most freshmen talk about the adjustment to the size and speed of college football, and while Jordan admits the strength of opposing offensive lineman is different, he said he hasn't had much of a problem with the speed of the game.  "I think speedwise, I was ready," Jordan said. "There's definitely a strength difference. Offensive linemen aren't as flimsy as they used to be. You can't just bull-rush them anymore. They're stronger."  Like most of the Bears' defensive linemen, Jordan got reps at both tackle and end during training camp. But he's more suited to play on the outside.  Tyson Alualu and Rulon Davis will start at end for Cal on Saturday, but Jordan should be in the mix along with Tad Jones and Cody Smith to get some snaps.  "I just thought I would do my best and see if I can get into the rotation," Jordan said. "My first week was pretty rough, but I've adjusted decently."

EXTRA POINTS: Tedford said the kickoff return duties still aren't settled. He said Lavelle Hawkins, Jahvid Best and Brandon Hampton are the candidates, and "possibly" punt returner DeSean Jackson. ... Linebacker Zack Follett went down hard after a collision with running back Justin Forsett during practice Monday. He went off the field with a noticeable limp but returned later. Tedford said he suffered a leg bruise. ... Starting fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou is recovering faster than expected from an MCL sprain and is now day to day, according to Tedford. He suffered the injury Aug. 16 and initially was expected to be sidelined 3-6 weeks. ... Limited tickets for Saturday's game are available by calling 1-800-GOBEARS or at calbears.com.

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