"Our team is better," said Garrick McGee, offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. "I think there is much more competition. It doesn't mean we are where we need to be, but we are better."
That was McGee's response when asked about the progress of the defense. Offensive tackle DeMarcus Love had similar thoughts when asked what he sees on the other side of the ball.
"I think Jake has done a 360 turnaround from last year. A lot of tackles in the SEC better get ready because he's coming."
Asked later what Bequette has done to make a "360 turnaround," Love smiled and then said, "Well, maybe it wasn't 360, but what I've seen is that he's so much better at his speed rush technique. You can tell he's really worked on his technique. He's second to none. Our defensive ends are some of the best in the league and no one has heard of them much yet."
Love said others in the defensive front have made statements in fall camp. He sees a lot of improvement from nose tackle Alfred Davis.
"I think Alfred is going to do a lot of damage," Love said. "I think of the young ones, Byran Jones stands out as someone who is going to play this season."
The depth may come in handy. DeQuinta "Dede" Jones has been working with the first team the last couple of days at defensive tackle, but went down midway through the afternoon drill Thursday with what may have been a shoulder injury. He did not finish practice. Bret Harris missed a few snaps after a leg knock, but returned to finish drills.
It was a long tough afternoon practice, but Love said even some added time at the end to simulate an overtime period wasn't so bad. He said there was no room to complain since the squad went inside Walker Pavilion to escape the heat for the second workout of the day.
"When you go inside, it isn't nearly as bad or seem as long," he said. "It got pretty hot in the morning workout. So you can't complain about the afternoon.
"I thought we had a good, sharp practice in the afternoon. I thought we handled ourselves alright."
Offensive guard Alvin Bailey seemed to think the same thing.
"I thought our offensive line play was quite sharp, especially the second practice today," he said. "I thought we played fast and physical up front and we are getting better. We are progressing towards that first scrimmage Saturday. I think everyone is looking forward to that."
McGee said he'll be watching for toughness and mental focus. He said he wants to see how the offense comes out of the chute.
"I want to see if we come out in a violent, physical way," he said. "Then I want to see how tough we are, how we hold together. And if we have a letdown, if we bounce back. We are going to be going into some tough, physical situations in this league. I want to see if we come prepared to play that way Saturday in the scrimmage."
Love said he thinks the offensive line is "tougher and more physical" under new line coach Chris Klenakis.
"I think you are going to see us run the ball better this year," Love said. "I think he has brought a more physical, nasty presence to what we do. He puts that into us and it's been there so far in this camp. We have been grinding it out and getting better day after day. Practices have been hard, but we were ready for it."
The Hogs have been far from perfect, McGee said. He noted a fumbled snap between Seth Oxner and Ryan Mallett in the overtime period Thursday afternoon.
"They fumbled going in at the 3-yard line," McGee said. "I told Ryan that he needed Tejada to come in and bail him out.
"We want to win championships. To do that in the SEC, you have to mentally focus."