Keeping Stevens Healthy a Key for Tigers

Craig Stevens talks about the upcoming season and his inexperienced backups.

Auburn, Ala.--With the possible exception of his momma and other loved ones, nobody will be more concerned about the health of junior linebacker Craig Stevens this year than new Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof.

"I feel good and I am ready to get started," says Stevens, a 6-3, 230-pound returning starter for the Tigers.

Roof, who doubles as coach of the linebackers, says he is really pleased with what he has seen from Stevens as the first-team strongside linebacker heads into his junior year. Roof says Stevens has good instincts, plays hard and has shown leadership ability.

In addition to liking what happens when Stevens is on the field, the thought of what could happen without the junior is just as big a reason for the coach to want him to stay as healthy as possible. A pair of true freshmen are projected as the backups.

Stevens admits the Tigers are thin when it comes to proven depth at linebacker and adds, "Especially behind me. I have two freshmen behind me."

Harris Gaston, who played last season at Bessemer Academy, and Jonathan Evans, a standout at Blount High in 2008, are competing for the number two spot on the depth chart at strongside linebacker "We need for those guys to pick it up, learn all of the plays and just everything they have to do," says Stevens. "They need to be ready to step in at any time because anytime anybody can get injured.

"They have been doing pretty good," Stevens says of the freshmen. "They have been picking up on it. We have been trying to explain the plays to them when we go out and try to simplify for them. They seem to be picking up on it real good."

Since he got to Auburn, Stevens has played with Chris Evans, the older brother of Jonathan, who was a senior last fall. "Jonathan reminds me of Chris a little the way he carries himself," Stevens notes. "As far as personality they are like two different type of people. He talks a lot more than Chris.

"I feel like they (Evans and Gaston) are going to be pretty good," Stevens says. "They don't have any choice really but to develop their game because they are going to have to play whether it is just on special teams or defense."

Looking at the big picture on defense, Stevens says, "I think it is going to be as good as it has ever been. Every year I have been here we have been pretty good so I don't think we are going to fall off in that aspect."

Craig Stevens made 54 tackles last season with 31 solo stops.

Stevens notes that the returning players on the 2009 team as well as the newcomers who attended summer classes have been busy the past couple of months and are ready to put the pads on and play football.

"I think everybody is ready to get started," he says. "I think everybody is a little tired of just working out every day. I think they are ready to go out and play and work on our game."

Stevens says this offseason was the most demanding he has been through and predicts that will paid dividends when Gene Chizik's Tigers play in games starting with the season opener vs. Louisiana Tech.

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