Most everything went on schedule and just as smooth as the first eight days of fall camp, except for maybe the pass catching of the tight ends. No one had what should be termed a bad day, but it seemed that each of the tight ends -- aside from maybe Chris Gragg -- had at least one dropped pass.
The highlight of the day was solid punting and kickoff duties from a wide range of players. Alex Tejada and Zack Hocker both kicked well with a little cross wind on kickoffs. All of the punters -- Dylan Breeding, Westin Cox and Hocker -- seemed to have solid days. Joe Adams had a nice day on punt catches.
There was good news on the injury front. Dede Jones, slowed Thursday with a shoulder knock, seemed to be fine Friday and was practicing. However, it appears true freshman LaCraig Brown, defensive lineman from Monroe, La., has returned home and won't be with the team. He is no longer on the official school website roster.
Head coach Bobby Petrino hollered down the field to Adams to congratulate the receiver on the catch. He also offered praise to Mallett. Mallett and Adams did a jumping, twisting chest bump when they got together on the sideline.
In short, the coverage was outstanding, the offensive play just a little better. Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson didn't find fault with his man. In fact, he continues to see big improvement from one year ago in camp.
"I was talking with John L. Smith last night," Robinson said. "Knock on wood, last year this time of year it was like an air raid. Mentally, our assignment errors have been low. We are doing a good job in the secondary in our coverages."
The test now is to see how well the Hogs tackle, perhaps in space with the secondary. Can they do it Saturday morning in the scrimmage? The Hogs haven't tackled much in camp, but it promises to be a long, grueling Petrino-type scrimmage Saturday.
"We had a live drill the other day and our guys performed pretty good," Robinson said. "It was one-on-one and now we are going to see if we can put it together as a unit. Do we get 11 to the ball? That's the key so that if you do have a miss, then there is someone else there, too."
Would Robinson like more live tackling drills with the top skilled athletes on offense?
"Well, the first time we did that this camp, it resulted in a period that was so violent that you step back and bring a little caution back into the equation," he said. "You want to tackle, but you also see what we have and realize that maybe it's time to just get them to the first scrimmage and then get them to the first game.
"I think you better pick and choose carefully how you do that. We have to get these players to the game."
Robinson thinks he sees more depth at most positions. If there's an area that still might be a concern, it's overall depth at linebacker, but some of the starters have been cross trained at several spots and depth might be emerging. Terrell Williams has worked at will linebacker behind Jerry Franklin, allowing Freddy Burton to work at both middle and strong where Jermaine Love and Jerico Nelson continue to be the leaders.
"Jermaine is holding on at mike," Robinson said. "And we are starting to get a feel with some others there, too. We've got Freddy and Jerry getting some reps there and at the other spots. Jermaine is still holding on and we will watch that spot in the scrimmage.
"Terrell Williams is playing will. We are trying to make it more simple for him. We want him to react faster. I think we are trying to just get him to see the ball and then go get the ball, that simple. We want to get him reacting faster."
It appears that Jerico Nelson, up around 4 pounds from last year, might play in the base package instead of just the nickle and dime looks like last year. That will keep him on the field more in the 4-3 base at outside linebacker. Brett Harris is his backup and also appears bigger and stronger so that he can play in the base.
"We feel like Jerico can (play in the base)," Robinson said. "We think when we are in base we'll have him covered and protected a little bit and he'll be fine. Telling Jerico to set down and watch in the base might be like telling you something and saying, 'Now, I don't want you to write that.' You are probably going to write it anyway. We can't tell Jerico to sit down. We are just going to have to let him stay out there and play football.
"I don't think I can slow him down anyway. I don't think there's anyway to tell him to play soft. He's going to go out there and play violent football and I think he can do it in base."
Robinson praised the play of sophomore defensive tackle Alfred Davis. At 323, Davis has displayed remarkable conditioning and has proven to be an inside anchor for the defensive front.
"He's earned his way in there," Robinson said. "He can sustain effort at 323. He's in great condition for a man that size. He's very large and can move. It's been good to see that."
With Damario Ambrose and Tenarius Wright slowed a bit, true freshman Chris Smith has gotten some work with the first team. Ambrose has trouble holding weight and Wright is just being watched after offseason surgery. Training staff have tried to hold them out of every other practice, or not give as many reps.
"There are still some errors and he's a little tentative, but that much work can only help the young man," he said. "What we do see from Chris is that he can separate and get to the ball. It may be that we need to find a way to get our two regular ends and him on the field at the same time. They might be among our best three players.