Houston Nutt was disappointed with his team Saturday in a two-hour workout that included some throwing by Matt Jones in pass skeleton drills.
"Some of the guys were feeling sorry for themselves today and didn't push through their soreness from yesterday," Nutt said Saturday. "We improved in some areas, but some guys have to step up. It's a man's man game. Even when you are a little sore, you have to push through it.
"I thought some guys just tried to get by today. They have to do better than that and we went into the team meeting room and discussed that a little. We can't just be trying to get through it. You have to go out each day and try to get better."
Nutt said the film of Friday's 52-play scrimmage showed a lot of improvement in many areas.
"Guys like Michael Robinson, Clarke Moore, Jeb Huckeba, Michael Coe, Vickiel Vaughn and Marcus Whitmore really did well," Nutt said. "I was pleased with our offensive line. They stepped right and did well. They got a hat on a hat and got some push. De'Arrius Howard, DeCori Birmingham, Farod Jackson all did really well in the backfield running the ball."
As for Saturday's drills in shorts and shoulder pads, Nutt said it was good to see Jones in passing drills.
"He made two really good throws," Nutt said. "You could see the good decisions that come from experience. We let him dust some of the rust off today."
There was no rust when it came time to catch punts. Jones snared everyone that came close to him, including one he reached out with his long arms to catch just inches above the turf.
"The thing about Matt is that he hasn't touched a ball in several months, and he stepped out here yesterday and caught every punt," Nutt said. "He has remarkable hands. He's going to return punts. He really wants to. I guess we may get to the first game and I might not be able to pull the trigger on that, but that's what the plans are right now, for Matt to return punts. He just loves it and he can really be a threat there."
Jones, who hit on four straight passes to start the pass skeleton drills, sat out the team portions since he did not have on shoulder pads and there were some contact in those sessions. He can don full pads on Monday when workouts continue. There will be no practice Sunday.
Nutt said everything will be pointed next week towards a major scrimmage at noon Saturday. It will not be a scripted workout for television portions like the last several years. Instead, it will be a lengthy scrimmage and the major one of the spring.
"It will be good for TV, too, but not scripted like in the past," Nutt said. "There will be more to it and I think it will be much longer than what you remember as far as our spring games the last few years."
Some of the coaches want Saturday's scrimmage to feature more "good on good" than they've seen thus far in spring drills.
"We need that for our secondary," said Bobby Allen, secondary coach. "Michael Coe, Lerinezo Robinson and Vickiel Vaughn graded out very well in Friday's scrimmage. But how much can you tell when you are not going against the top receivers? I want to see them go against the ones."
Allen praised both Coe and Chris Houston for big plays in Saturday's drills.
"Chris Houston had two interceptions, including a great catch on a post," Allen said. "Coe continues to make big plays. He's having an outstanding spring. I'm gaining confidence in him. I still want to see what he does matched against our top receivers in a scrimmage. That will come next week. But after seeing these guys today, I'm very excited. They are catching on to what we want, playing technique and moving faster."
Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack echoed those thoughts, but agreed that it was the right way to start the spring.
"Houston was right to do that for both the defense and the offense, to gain some confidence," Wommack said. "The quarterbacks needed some success and that was what happened yesterday. Same for our young corners. So that was a good way to start things.
"As we move along through the spring, we'll see more good on good and that will be right then."
Wommack liked the way the linebackers played Friday.
"Clarke Moore really played well Friday," Wommack said. "Early in the week, I thought he might be a little rusty. He wasn't playing with his eyes. Yesterday, he played with his eyes and made plays. Mentally, he was very good, and we know he is good physically all the time.
"To be honest, I thought the first defense played well on Friday. I think we gave up 45 yards in 26 plays. That's good. But I want to see them challenged against better competition this coming week and see if they do the same thing.
"The defensive front has been solid, but the test for them is how they hold up over three weeks. I want to see if they are consistent and playing just as tough at the end of the spring. That's the test for a defensive front. Can they do it day in and day out, stay on the field and be tough? I think they can, but I want to see it."
Offensive line coach Mike Markuson had the dominant unit in Friday's scrimmage, but knows it wasn't a realistic picture.
"What you saw yesterday was the defense staying in one front with no stunts or blitzes," Markuson said. "That was good for a young offensive line. We knew where they were going to be and could have some success. That's not the way our defense is going to play and not what we'll see next year on Saturdays. But we needed that for our group to start out the spring.
"After saying that, I was pleased with the way we played. We allowed some penetration and that has to stop, but it was a good first scrimmage. James Johnson is doing well at left guard. He's getting better each day. He'll still make mistakes and that will continue for awhile, but he's learning and getting better.
"I like what I see from Robert Felton, Nate Garner and Matt Gilbow, too. Felton and Garner have a great punch. Gilbow is very athletic. All three of them are getting better and are going to help us. I like what I see from the other guys like Tony Ugoh, Kyle Roper and Zac Tubbs, too. Those three have played more so you expect good things from them. Gene Perry is doing as well as we've ever had from a juco guy and is going to play. He's a fighter and is so very tough."
Saturday Grid Report, 3/27
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