OK, that didn't work.
What, or rather who did work is defensive lineman Cameron Jordan. Jordan made the most
of summer workouts and fall camp and is one of three true freshmen to earn a spot on the
depth chart along with cornerback Chris Conte and running back Jahvid Best.
In last Saturday's 34-28 win over Colorado State, he came in as a reserve to get three
tackles, including a half-sack with Tyson Alualu early in the 2nd quarter. That sack, on a
3rd-and-13 from the CSU 25, helped give the Bears good field position, which
resulted in a short touchdown drive that put the Bears up seven, 14-7.
Jordan's a rarity, a freshman defensive lineman who's able to play right away.
Most linemen new to college football usually undergo a significant physiological
change involving adding weight, building strength while at the same time trying to
maintain their speed and increase their football ability.
Consequently, a redshirt year gives them time to work on this, while the work with the
scout team helps them get accustomed to not just the speed of play but also the pace of
Of the eight defensive lineman currently listed on Cal's two-deep, four sat out a year
due to redshirting and/or injury (Cody Jones, Matt Malele, Mike Costanzo, and Tad Smith),
Rulon Davis was in the military for a couple of years, Tyson Alualu and Mika Kane played
as true freshman, and then there's the 6-4, 260-pound Jordan.
To him, it was never clear-cut from the outset that he'd redshirt, and he was made
aware early on that he'd have a chance to compete for playing time.
"(Defensive line) Coach (Ken) Delgado was honest with us," said Jordan, who
was named the top defensive lineman at the Los Angeles Nike Camp in 2006. "He told us
how many spots there were on the defensive line and that the best guys would be able to
play, and if you worked hard, and were strong enough and good enough that you'd
Jordan understood that to move beyond first-year practice fodder, he had to make an
"You always heard about how they try to be rough on the freshmen so I knew I had
to go out and earn the respect from the older guys," said Jordan, the son of NFL
tight end Steve Jordan. "During the first couple of days, I worked on hitting them
hard and harder. I wanted to come out there and show that I could hit. Those first
few days I spent a lot of time in the training room."
His play during fall camp meant that he'd get playing time in the first game.
Against Tennessee. In a sold-out Memorial Stadium. Maybe in another year, in
a different situation, the coaching staff might have found a way to ease him into things
during his first year, but the importance of this game meant that all hands were on deck.
And for someone who'd played in front of significantly smaller audiences in high
school, the crowd surprised Jordan. It's one thing to see several thousand people in
a stadium as player on an official visit, but it's quite in another to be in the middle of
all of it while on the field.
"It's a lot crazier (than in high school," said Jordan, whose butterflies
disappeared after lining up with the kickoff unit. "For the first game, I didn't look
up at the stands until I got to the sideline. At practice they'd turn the speakers up to
sound like crowd noise, but once you got out on the field, it was completely
The Bears rotated their defensive linemen throughout the game, primarily by rotating
Cody Jones and Tad Smith in during the first half, and then adding Jordan and John Allen
into the mix in the second half.
"I got in the game around the third quarter," said Jordan. "You
could tell they were getting tired, they were hitting hard in he third quarter, but they
were easier to go up against in the fourth."
While crediting Colorado State's grind-it-out offense and admitting that the Rams
caught the Bears "off guard," Jordan and the rest of the defensive line took
some solace in that they managed five sacks of CSU's Caleb Hanie, up from the one they had
against Tennessee's Erik Ainge.
"Coach Delgado's been teaching us new techniques and has been working with us on
different pass rush moves," said Jordan, who was one a group of linemen that Delgado
worked with late after practice on Wednesday.
Currently listed behind Tyson Alualu as a defensive end, Jordan will often enter the game when Alualu is shifted inside. Besides rushing the passer and working to contain the run, he's also helpful getting downfield, as shown when he tackled CSU wide receiver Damon Morton on a 7-yard gain on a 3rd-and-10 in the third quarter forcing the Rams to punt.
When asked about the biggest difference between high school and college football, most
players will refer to the speed of the game. While that wasn't as much of a challenge for
Jordan, he did find something else significantly daunting.
"You hear a lot about how the biggest difference between high school and college
is speed but when I got here, I found out that my speed was decent and that I was able to
adjust," said Jordan who recorded 17.5 sacks as a senior at Arizona's Chandler High
School. "The big difference is the playbook. In high school you might have had
five or six plays. Here it's, whew, I don't even know. There are new looks and formations
that are being put in every game."
One of the things that stands out about Jordan is his upbeat personality. While
some of it can be attributed to youth, part of it comes from someone who's genuinely happy
to be with both where he is and what he's doing. Most of the Bear Insider player
profiles this fall have included a picture of a player to help let the reader get a look
at a player apart from the media guide head shot and whateve helmeted pictures may show up
in newspapers and websites.
While some players simply look into the camera, others take a few seconds to prepare
themselves, whether it's a subtle smile or a stare. Jordan was told that linemen
tended to favor more serious poses, before sporting the expression pictured above.
Asked what he does in his spare time, he furrows a brow, then looks over at a nearby
media relations official.
"We have spare time? Really?"
Jordan continues, "Classes and study takes me from 8-2, then I'm here (at the
stadium) from 2-7, then it's off to grab a bite and then more studying."
Although this September afternoon was cool and foggy, a far cry from Arizona's arid
climate, he wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
"Berkeley's been wonderful," said Jordan who hasn't decided upon a major yet.
"I like my classes, especially psychology and a class I'm taking on society and
If you believe linemen know where the better food around campus is, you won't have to
follow him too far down Telegraph Avenue.
"I'm a pizza man. Blondie's is awesome."
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When you think of defensive lineman, you think of big, ornery players with nasty dispositions. Players who are prepared to engage in battle with their offensive line counterparts over a relatively small piece of territory, several times over during the course of an afternoon. Players who eat nails for breakfast and shower in blood - in spite of what the picture on the left might suggest.