If the fumbled punts was a low point, the high point was probably a catch Lance Ray made after getting a bump in what would have probably been pass interference. Ray, redshirt freshman wideout, hauled in the long pass after contact and then sprinted to the end zone to applause from the crowd at the morning workout.
Another positive aspect of the workout was some tackling in a perimeter period as the Hogs build towards a Saturday scrimmage. The hitting was crisp and solid.
As the outside linebacker coach, Smith liked the live tackling drill early in the day and was appreciative of the decision made by the head coach for more live tackling. With a major scrimmage set for Saturday, the Hogs have added bits of hitting each day as a lead up.
"You'll see different aspects of practice where Coach will go in there and script that. It's all going to be game-like. What we're trying to sell our guys on is if you're out there for 12 plays, this is your conditioning and this is what a game is like. We'll try and give them all the different things and all the different situations they'll see in a game run in a 12-play series. Any time you condition in heat is good for you."
A question was asked about the way the Hogs intend to use freshman defender Chris Smith, at end or outside linebacker.
"Chris Smith was playing all defensive end today," John L. Smith said. "Now he will come in during a few situations as a linebacker, per say. But he's really a rush cover guy. Generally he's going to be in the game as a down end."
The punt return could have been better, especially since it came right after a cool down.
"Coach gave us a break right before punt return so we should have been fresh coming out," Smith said. "We really looked good (yesterday) so it needed to be good today with those guys catching the ball live, and we didn't do a good job of catching the ball. We have to continue to work on that. Any time during camp you can never get enough catching in with those punt return guys. Today was my fault. I'll take the credit for that and we'll have to work on it more."
Smith was asked if there were more special team periods.
"Coach Petrino gives us time to work on all those things," he said. "I don't know that we have any more periods, but the thing is, in my opinion, we're making sure we get a little more meeting time. The meeting time during the evenings and the time before practices to install has been great. We're putting emphasis on it."
The defense continues to come up with turnovers, fumbles and interceptions.
"We try to tell the defense one of the great things we did last year was our takeaway margin," he said. "We have to continue to do that and strip and fly to the ball. If you're running to the ball full-speed you're going to get some takeaways.
"I'm liking where we're getting the ball. Coach is going to go in and kick the offense in the tail and make sure they hang onto that thing, but I'm liking what we're seeing. We have to continue and build on the other things. We have to build on that defensively and not give up the big play."
There may be a change in the way Freddy Burton will be used compared to the first week of fall camp. He had played exclusively at strongside, but moved to middle linebacker for some periods Wednesday.
"In the middle linebacker rotation I think today you saw Freddy back in the middle a little bit more," Smith said. "I think you'll continue to see that. We'll take a look at film and see how he did, but we're wanting to get him some more time in the middle. He fits pretty good there."
The first major scrimmage of the fall looms Saturday morning.
"The biggest thing going into a scrimmage is getting out healthy and whole," Smith said. "You want to keep all your kids fresh but we want to run around and stress tempo and run around on the defensive side of the ball. If we can continue to harp on running to and swarming the football - we're going to continue to make mistakes, but we've got to get to the ball."
Smith also said all special teams position battles are still on-going.
The live hitting early in the practice was a 9-on-11 battle that focused on the perimeter. The two inside defensive tackles were removed and replaced by offensive linemen with bags. All of the action was outside.
"It's a perimeter drill," end Jake Bequette said. "You take the tackle out. It's live at the point of attack, but if the ball goes away from your side, you can't hit. The idea is to protect ourselves from someone diving in from the side. But you get to hit if it comes at you. We needed some of that. I thought we did well."
The defense knocked the ball loose a couple of times. Coupled with some pass interceptions on tipped or battled balls, there were plenty of turnovers from the defense.
"That's a point of emphasis," Bequette said. "We were good there last year. It's about stripping and getting to the ball. If you fly to the ball, good things happen. I think the other thing where we see some big paybacks is the way we all have studied film this summer. I see a difference with the defensive secondary. I think those guys are on top of it. We've got speed back there and they are playing tight coverage.
"I think everyone knows how fast and good our wideouts play and our secondary guys are right with them."
The summer conditioning had a different twist. Strength coach Jason Veltkamp paired players in different contests ... sometimes straight line 55s and sometimes agility drills. For example, Bequette was paired against tight end Chris Gragg.
"I think Coach Veltkamp wanted to match up guys with comparable speed," Bequette said. "I got Gragg a few times in the agility runs, but in the 55s he got me most of the time. I stayed close, but he got me.
"I thought there were some interesting battles. The one I liked to watch had Marquell Wade and Greg Gatson. That was two fast guys neck and neck. I think reps like that really help the team."