Auburn LB Picking Up Where He Left Off

Craig Stevens discusses spring training and his strong effort in the first scrimmage.

Auburn, Ala.--Ben Tate and Jermarcus Ricks were the only two of last year's true freshman class not to redshirt, but Craig Stevens would have also been on the list if not for a hamstring injury. With Kevin Sears and Tray Blackmon serving suspensions, Stevens played well in the first three games of the season before taking a medical redshirt.

As the second-string will (weakside) linebacker behind Steve Gandy, Stevens had a solid first week of spring camp concluding with a nine-tackle performance in Saturday's scrimmage.

"I think I did all right for it to be my first scrimmage," Stevens says. "I haven't really practiced full speed since the LSU week. It was a good feel for me to get back used to it. Overall I think I did better. Everybody did better."

Of his nine tackles, three were behind the line of scrimmage, including a sack.

"I was just flying around basically," he notes.

A bigger, more physical Stevens is looking to break into the playing rotation for next season.

Even though he played some last season, the Lincoln High School product says he's still getting used to some of the philosophies of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp that many players last season took time to get used to.

"I have to learn to start running through because in high school I was taught to break down," Stevens says. "Here they don't want us to break down so I've just to get used to keep running through the tackle instead of breaking down and waiting on them to make a move."

Stevens learned the playbook in a hurry last August, and is picking up the pieces again after being sidelined for most of the season and then running scout team during bowl practices.

"I'm getting back to knowing it because after LSU week and I got hurt I couldn't really play with the team that much," he notes. "I lost touch with all of the plays, but I'm getting back. I'm not 100 percent yet."

While he's not 100 percent with the playbook, Stevens says that his hamstring is getting back to normal after strengthening it in the winter workouts.

"We had to do the bubble drills," Stevens explains. "The bubble drills about killed me though. In the winter workouts that's when we do mat drills. I'm kind of good at the boards though. The mat drills take a lot out of me. I was just trying to get bigger and stronger and I think I'm back to good now. I've been working trying to get my legs stronger and I'm probably back to 100 percent."

When Stevens signed with Auburn the coaches projected him as a future middle linebacker, but with Merrill Johnson and Chris Evans showing signs of improvement in the offseason and with Tray Blackmon's absence, Stevens may stay where he is throughout the spring. He's up to 220 pounds and says he would like to get to 230-235 by fall camp so he thinks there is a chance that he moves to the mike linebacker before it's all said and done.

"That's probably where I'm going to end up, to tell you the truth," he notes. "I might end up at the mike if I keep getting bigger because I've been gaining weight. I think I might eventually end up there."

The Tigers return to practice Tuesday after taking a break on Sunday and Monday. They will practice through March 17th when they wrap up drills with the annual A-Day Game.

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