Freshman LB Gaining Confidence

Craig Stevens talks about getting that first game under his belt and the confidence of the defense heading into the match up with South Florida.

Auburn, Ala.--Last weekend's season opener was a new experience for Auburn redshirt freshman linebacker Craig Stevens. After seeing some limited action early last season before an injury forced him to take a medical redshirt, the Tallahassee, Fla,. native is one of the starters at linebacker for the Tigers and says the Kansas State game was a little different than anything he's experienced at Auburn.

"I think it went well," Stevens says. "I didn't play as much because they kept going four and five wide so we kept going nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six defensive backs), but I got in on that some too. It went good. I was able to make a couple of adjustments. I made a few rookie mistakes, but it all comes with the territory."

Rookie mistakes were the theme of the week as both sides of the ball made their share with the offense having the majority in the win over Kansas State. Defensively there were issues such as alignment and execution problems that hampered the production on defense from time to time, but Stevens says in the end getting the victory was the important thing.

"I think it helped us build a lot of confidence in ourselves," Stevens says. "To tell you the truth we weren't really expecting them to go out in four and five wide receivers sets. Being that we went out and adjusted to it and still played good, that gave us a lot of confidence. We should be good going into this game."

"A lot of people are going to have confidence going into the other games," he adds. "Being that everyone has a game, especially a close game, under their belts I think it gave everyone a lot of confidence."

Craig Stevens gets instructions from linebacker coach James Willis.

The Auburn defense will face a different challenge in week two after Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman attempted 57 passes last Saturday night and threw the ball all over the field. This time the Tigers will have to stop athletic quarterback Matt Grothe, who can throw the bal, but is better known for his ability to run the football. Stevens says the adjustment when you face a running quarterback makes for a tough night for the defense.

"With the run it brings in another factor," Stevens says. "I think we'll be able to handle it. If we key the right things we'll be able to shut them down. We have to stop the run first. If we do that we should be able to handle anything."

Auburn may play with a less than full speed starting middle linebacker. Tray Blackmon is expected to play against the Bulls after he injured an ankle on the last play of the first half against Kansas State returning an interception. Without him full speed in practice this week both Chris Evans and Courtney Harden have worked at middle linebacker after Evans did a solid job replacing Blackmon in game one. Stevens says no matter if Blackmon plays or not he thinks the defense will be ready.

"It doesn't really change that much," Stevens says. "We've got Chris Evans working in the middle right now and he's been playing a lot, too. We'll be all right."


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