Meet Evan Tattersall, a redshirt sophomore from Granite Bay who will be a starting inside linebacker for Cal this season.
Tattersall is best known to Golden Bear fans for the wicked hit he took on a kick coverage play against USC last year. He remained motionless on the field for more than 10 minutes and was taken to the hospital, but released that night.
Tattersall’s initial claim to fame this season will be as Evan Weaver’s replacement.
That’s a lot of tackles — and a lot of personality — to replace.
Tattersall, who goes 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, said he won’t try to emulate anyone.
“I’m just kind of getting used to that role. I just try to communicate, do my job, be positive and be a great role model for the younger guys,” he said.
“I’m not the most outgoing or vocal guy, but I’m still making calls. I have to be myself but I’m also trying to be a great teammate to everyone.”
Tattersall will benefit from playing alongside senior Kuony Deng, who was the Pac-12’s third-leading tackler (119) last season.
Still, stepping into Weaver’s shoes could be imposing. Tattersall was asked what he learned from watching Weaver in practice and game days for two seasons.
“I think most i importantly just from the football side, his mentality going into every play was to tackle the guy with the ball every play, no matter what,” Tattersall said. “And you can see that turned into a good amount of production for him.”
Sure did. Weaver led the nation with 182 tackles — making tackles on nearly 20 percent of the opponent’s offensive snaps. He was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus first-tea m All-American. Weaver is on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad this fall.
Tattersall said Weaver also showed him the value of being a good friend and teammate.
“Everyone knows as a football player, he’s a maniac, an alpha male on the field. But off the field he’s a super-relaxed dude,” Tattersall said. “He loves football. He loves hanging out with the inside linebackers. He was just another one of the guys.”
Deng also has been a good example for Tattersall.
“Kuony’s just super-positive. I’d also say he’s a great role model. He does everything the right way in my eyes,” Tattersall said. “So I think the way he’s handled himself — he came from junior college to straight into playing and it’s like he had been in for four years. It was awesome.”
Cal defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon said the coaching staff is pleased with Tattersall’s development.
“When you get a young man who enjoys football, who is investing in his body and investing in that time of development, then you get the opportunities to see that come to fruition,” Sirmon said. “So Tat’s playing well right now. He runs well and it's exciting to see him to get the opportunities to go out there and show what he’s done for the last few years.”
Tattersall, who expects to make his first career start on Nov. 7 in Cal’s opener against Washington, has seen action in 15 games over two previous seasons.
None of them put him in the spotlight the way the USC game did last fall.
*** Tattersall talks in this video about dropping some weight during the quarantine to improve his speed and (about 40 seconds in) reflects on the big hit he took against USC last season:
During a kickoff to the Trojans in the second quarter, Tattersall was leveled by a block from Juliano Faliniko. Falaniko’s helmet struck Tattersall in the upper chest or chin, sending him backward and onto the turf. No penalty flag was thrown on the play.
Tattersall missed the Bears’ next two games, but now accepts the incident as just part of football.
“For me that was just a hit. I’ve been hit a million times,” he said. “That was one that just happened to be unfortunate, the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ve never had anything like that. I don’t anticipate anything like that again.
“Yeah, it was scary to the outside world, but for me it was just dealing with it and getting right back on the field as soon as possible.”
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
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