When you practice against yourself, a good day by one unit leaves the coaches of the other unit frowning. That's what happened with Arkansas on a warm Thursday night in the Ozarks.
"We had a good day throwing and catching," said Houston Nutt, praising the execution of quarterback Casey Dick and a group of wide receivers led by Marcus Monk. Monk got some nice support from London Crawford and Robert Johnson, among others at wideout.
Conversely, defensive coordinator Reggie Herring didn't like anything he saw on his side of the ball, proclaiming if his players "don't get tougher, they may end up wearing a different color jersey."
Asked if that meant a return to the pink jerseys he gave to loafers a couple of years ago, Herring snapped, "I didn't say what color. I'm not going there."
Herring has liked the way one of his defenders has performed in camp so far. He elevated Chris Wade to starting left end. He moved Malcolm Shepherd from left end to starting left tackle. Ernest Mitchell has been moved from left tackle to starting right tackle.
"It turns out that Malcolm Shepherd might be our best tackle," Herring said. "And, it turns out that Wade was better at end than the guy we had starting at tackle."
Marcus Shavers and Fred Bledsoe were fighting for the job at tackle, but weren't cutting the mustard, according to line coach Tracy Rocker.
"They were fighting for that job," Rocker said, then quickly added, "well, if they had been fighting we might not have had to make the move."
Herring said he's not so sure they wouldn't have made the move even had those two been doing well. He thinks Wade might be a better pass rusher than Shepherd.
"Really, when we signed Shepherd, we thought he would grow into a tackle, so we just went ahead and did it," Herring said. "What you have is a player (Shepherd) who has a lot of grrrrrrr!!!! He goes right at you hard. He may not have the moves that Wade has and Wade can give us some pass rush. So it's a way to get our best 11 on the field together. That's our best 11 for Troy."
When Marcus Harrison, rehabbing an ACL injury, returns later in the season, could he take Shepherd's spot at tackle with Shepherd returning to end?
"I don't see that," Herring said. "I think what we'll do then is rotate three good players at tackle with Mitchell, Shepherd and Harrison. What I'll say is that the other end, guys like Adrian Davis, are coming on, too. We have some depth at end to make this move. Now, if we lost a starting end and Harrison was back, we might need to do something like that. But this is our best 11 and I like this move.
"What you are saying with this move is that Wade is better than the two (Shavers and Bledsoe) that went to the bench."
Having said that, Herring was not a happy defensive coordinator.
"We are VERY soft defensively," he said. "We had five days of shorts and did fine. We put on some pads and we are timid. We can't stop the run. We continue where we are headed and we'll be wearing a different color jersey."
Herring said he could not praise a single individual on the defense.
"What I am saying is that each and every player needs to go look in the mirror," Herring said. "Right now it is embarrassing. We are sloppy. We are not playing as a team. We are fine in finesse stuff. Third and long, third and medium, we are OK there. But just lining up and playing the run, we aren't there.
"About every third play, we give up a long run. You can't play the run, forget about it.
"The linebackers are not playing very good. You give up things in the run, your linebackers aren't making any plays. To stop the run, you do it with linebackers. We lack a physical nature."
Does that mean the Hogs are headed for a heavy batch of middle drills when full pads are added later this week?
"It won't matter if we don't change our mindset," Herring said. "If we don't buy into a tougher, physical attitude, it won't change. We need a long gut check. We are not close right now.
"Now, can we get there? Yes, we can change. But this is a red flag. This is the hurricane warning. It's something that can be changed and corrected. We have three weeks to get it corrected."
Casey Dick took almost all of the snaps at quarterback on Wednesday, finding Monk with some nice throws over the middle and a couple in the back of the end zone, one which left Walner Leandre and Shedrick Johnson crashing together underneath his leaping grab.
"Nathan Emert has some strep (infection) and so we let Casey take almost everything," Nutt said, noting they put a black "no contact" jersey on Dick to make sure they made it through the day with their top QB unhurt.
"With Nathan out, we needed to make sure Casey was left alone. We spread out the second-team snaps among the freshmen, but they didn't get many. Casey got most of it and had a good day.
"Monk made some great catches, but you are going to get some great ones from Monk. I thought London Crawford, Robert Johnson and some others had good days, too. Our wide receivers are coming."
Jeremy Davis was a clear winner on Wednesday as he continued to duel with Alex Tejada in the placekicking battle.
"I thought Alex was pressing a little," Nutt said. "Jeremy was really good. I thought earlier this week that it might be that Jeremy would do just the punting and Alex would do the placekicking, but Jeremy is doing very well in both. He was really good tonight, the better of the two. We still have confidence in Alex and we'll keep looking at both."
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