There was one very evident change on the defensive side of the ball as junior defensive back Junior Rosegreen made the move back to corner after spending all of last season at strong safety. A cornerback for much of his freshman season, he will remain at corner the rest of the spring in an effort to shore up the position heading into two-a-days in August. While this isn't a permanent move coaches say, there is no doubt that it signals to the rest of the candidates at the position that they either step up their game or the job is closed.
"He played there before so we moved him over," Coach Tommy Tuberville said of Rosegreen. "Corner is an easy position to learn, it's just the technique is more difficult at safety. We have a lot of safeties and if we run into a problem and needed a more experienced player at corner we felt like Junior would give us an opportunity. Junior can handle both positions and we might have to do that in the fall early until we get some more experience.
"We've got for or five guys that have played pretty good," Tuberville added when talking about the cornerback position. "Lamel Ages has played the most consistent, but Dee Durham has played well. Montavis Pitts is one of the most improved, but he has a long way to go because he played wide receiver in the fall. It looks good, the only problem is we're not going to be very experienced on one side. They're going to learn very quick playing against a passing attack like USC's got. We're going to try to put them under as much pressure as we can and try to get a little confidence at that position."
Everything ran pretty smoothly in Tuesday's practice as quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Josh Sullivan picked up right where they left off by throwing the ball extremely well. Campbell threw several nice deep balls to senior receiver Jeris McIntyre out of the slot while Sullivan showed his arm strength with out routes to the sideline that picked up good yardage in 11 on 11 drills. Both have shown they're ready to solidify their roles as starter and backup heading into summer workouts.
T.J. Jackson works in a drill during Tuesday's practice.
Defensively the front seven swarmed to the ball with both Spencer Johnson and Demarco McNeil looking refreshed with a hop in their step on Tuesday. Having redshirt freshman Ben Grubbs pushing for playing time as well as T.J. Jackson has given both the opportunities to teach all spring and help the young guys improve in both the pass rush and run departments. Tuberville said he liked the effort that his team gave as a whole on Tuesday, noting that they had a good attitude when they stepped back on the field.
"We got a lot done," Tuberville said. "It was good to see everybody back and ready to practice. The enthusiasm was excellent. That's what I look for as a head coach. As long as you keep your enthusiasm you're getting something out of spring. Once you lose it you might as well put the pads up, but the guys have still got a lot of fire in them and they're obviously looking forward to finishing up, but looking forward to finishing strong."
The Tigers return to the practice field Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. when they will work for the first hour on drills and technique work before taking part in an 80 to 100-play scrimmage the last half of practice at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Tuberville said this would be the final chance for many young players to catch the eye of the coaching staff before next fall.
"We want to look at our cornerback situation," Tuberville said of the plans for Wednesday's scrimmage and Saturday's A-Day game. "We're going to try to put a lot of pressure on our corners. We're going to throw the ball deeper than what we've been throwing. It will be an all-out scrimmage on both sides--good against good. We want to see how much we've improved. It will pretty much be a report card of spring practice."
Good against good is something Tuberville firmly believes in for his football team. While he could have made it easy on the players all spring and let the first offense work against the second defense and vice versa, he said that the only way you get better is playing against the best. Watching defensive end Reggie Torbor work against Marcus McNeill day in and day out leaves little doubt that Tuberville's philosophy is taking hold with the players.
"We've gotten better at what we're doing on both sides, but you can't really tell how much you improve because we never go first team against second or third team," Tuberville said. "We always do first team against first team on both sides. Sometimes you get a false impression on one side or the other because you don't know. You've got your best players playing and they are competing. If you just keep them competing and playing hard, no matter if they are winning or losing. That will make them a better player as long as you stress technique. You can't go out and get better at technique by overwhelming somebody."