Avatar It was the first day of practice after spring break and there was some rust. But defensive secondary coach Clay Jennings thought the rust fell off soon enough.
"There was some carry over from the first week before spring break, but we had some new, too," Jennings said after the 24-period workout Tuesday afternoon on a beautiful 75-degree day. "It was the first we've looked at the nickel and I thought there was some good play, some re-routing of receivers and some great communication."
Henre' Toliver got the work at the nickel, moving inside after watching Tevin Mitchel play there last year.
"It's new for Henre' but he's a team guy," Jennings said. "He wanted to try it. He did pretty well there. We moved some guys around to see how communication would be at different spots. We moved De'Andre Coley into the first group at strong safety, but we slid Rohan Gaines out there, too."
The constant was free safety where Josh Liddell took the bulk of the first team snaps. Liddell was all smiles afterwards.
"I am definitely ahead of where I was last season, even at the end of last season," Liddelll said. "Of course, I'm bigger and stronger. I'm up to 213 and that helps my confidence. I think I can be 215 or 220 by next season. I think carrying that weight is going to help me with my tackling."
Jennings said he can tell the difference.
"You see the way he carries his pads now," Jennings said. "I think that weight helps his confidence. He's been in the weight room and worked hard. It's a good weight, too. He understands what he's doing. In the bowl game, Texas went after him pretty hard, tried to put him on the island and we were playing some man. He handled himself very well. Actually, he played great."
Liddell said, "It's about our foundation being set. We understand what we are doing. At least, I can tell you that I'm a lot further ahead than I was last fall."
Cornerback D. J. Dean heard the calls from the sophomore free safety throughout the day.
"I think you see that we all have confidence," Dean said. "Josh has it, for sure. Of course, I'm always a confident guy. We liked how today went. I think we made some plays. Maybe there was some early rust, but we got into it pretty fast."
It was defense only in the interview room on Tuesday. The offense will have its turn on Thursday when the Hogs resume after an off day. It appeared the defense had the upper hand anyway in the passing drills Tuesday.First
"First day back, there was a lot of good and some bad," Jennings said. "It was an opportunity to see how much they brought back from spring break and then to see what they could pick up in some new packages. We had a greeting meeting and walk through yesterday and good practice today.
"Coley stepped up. We wanted to see what he could do with the first group. We are going to rotate guys through all spring. We moved Santos Ramirez at safety. He had been only at corner in the first week."
What's the probable destination for Ramirez?
"I think it's too early," Jennings said. "We think he can play corner. We think he can play safety. The thing about it, with him, there are only four front line corners. So we may need him to be a corner. But maybe he can do both. He has done well at both spots so far. He's got size, speed, length and is physical. That's a nice combination to play both."
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