The Tigers must replace three starters in the secondary and three starters on the front four. Eguae and Bell don't seen overly concerned.
"We have a group that is going to shock a lot of people," Eguae said when asked about the front four on his team's 4-3 defense that will rely heavily on newcomers.
Eguae said he is seeing improvement from the young players the Tigers will be counting on to provide depth this season and said the defense as a whole is coming around.
"We all feel we have a great football team," the returning starter said. "We are young in some places, but we are very talented.
"Anytime you see guys who are putting in extra time after practice, watching the extra film, you can tell we have a special group," he said. "We are just going to go out there on Sept. 3rd and put it all on display. We are going to come back Sept. 10th and just do it week after week. That is what you have to do in this league. We are looking forward to it."
One of the reasons Eguae has high expectations for the 2011 defense is the group's speed. "We have got a bunch of runners and hitters," he noted. "Last year we were fast, but I just feel like we are faster."
Bell, who is one of the most experienced players in the secondary, said he has high hopes for the defensive backs and the overall defense. He is expected to see extensive action at cornerback and as a nickel back this season.
"I think we are right where he need to be," he said when asked how the defense is progressing as the Tigers prepare for their Sept. 3rd opener vs. Utah State. However, Bell sounds a warning that there is still work to be done.
"The chemistry is good on defense, but there are definitely things we still need to work on like communication on every play," he said. "We are still not getting lined up right every play and that has a lot to do with the installation and the speed that everything is going. Once the game week comes up and we start to really prepare for Utah State, I think things will be better as far as alignment and communication."
Bell is expected to start at cornerback. When the Tigers go to a nickel package with a fifth defensive back, the junior is likely to move the nickel spot, which opens the door for either redshirt freshman Jonathan Mincy or sophomore Ryan White to get into the game at cornerback. Those players are competing for that role.
Commenting on Mincy, Bell said the cornerback is trying to respond to a challenge from the coaching staff to be more physical. "He is definitely answering the call. Every day out there whether it is a scrimmage or just shells, he is trying to find a way to get some contact on somebody. He has done a great job with that. He has definitely taken steps forward."
One of the newcomers who has consistently won praise from the coaches since practice started is safety Erique Florence. Bell said that Florence has gotten his attention. "Every time you turn on the film you see 14 around the ball whether he is making the tackle or he is getting in on it--or an interception or fumble recovery," Bell pointed out."
With Bell, Eguae and the other players getting settled in on their first day of classes, head coach Gene Chizik didn't start practice until nearly 8 p.m.
Chizik said he liked the energy his Tigers showed in their Wednesday practice under the lights. The Tigers practiced for two hours and focused on special situations. "We worked a lot of third and long and we worked some red zone," Chizik said.
"I was real pleased with the tempo of practice," he said. "I was real pleased with the focus and they came out to practice tonight and practiced well."
The session marked the return to action of 2010 Freshman All-SEC tailback Michael Dyer, who has been sidelined with an injury. "He has got to get in shape, but he practiced hard tonight--he ran hard," Chizik said. "I thought he practiced well."
In other news and notes:
*There is still no word yet on who the starting quarterback will be with Chizik and Malzahn continuing to say they want to wait until they are sure who the best choice is.
*The Tigers may have another scrimmage on Saturday, but Chizik said that decision has not been made yet.
*Freshman quarterback Kiehl Frazier said he has made progress this preseason in getting accustomed to the pace of college football compared to what he faced at Shiloh Christian School in Springdale, Ark., where he was the state's top prospect.
"It helps a lot to kind of get adjusted to the speed," he said of his practice time in the first two scrimmages. "The third scrimmage was more young guys so the speed wasn't really as high as it had been. The first two scrimmages helped me get acclimated to the college game."
Kiehl Frazier throws a pass in practice.
*With the leading receivers from last year needing to be replaced, redshirt freshman Trovon Reed is trying to make a move into a starting role. Cornerback Bell has been impressed with the receiver and noted that Reed is the most difficult player on the team to tackle. Reed's nickname in high school was "The Ghost" because of his elusiveness. "He will do one move and make three or four guys miss," Bell said. "He is definitely talented."
*Junior Philip Lutzenkirchen noted that he is already trying to get into game mode. "I am trying to get in the film room to watch as much video as I can of Utah state," he said.
Lutzenkirchen is working at H-back/tight end and wide receiver. Freshman Brandon Fulse and senior Chris Humphries are also working at the H-back/tight end slot along with redshirt freshman Ladarious Phillips, who has missed practice time trying to get healthy from his 2010 foot injury.
Lutzenkirchen said that Fulse's "head is spinning at times," but is obviously talented. The junior added that former walk-on Humphries is having a good preseason camp. Commenting on Phillips, Lutzenkirchen said, "Ladarious has been a little bit banged up, but hopefully he is back full go now and can get caught up on everything we have been doing."
With two-a-days finished the Tigers will practice on Thursday evening, Friday evening and Saturday morning before taking Sunday and Monday off.
Chizik Talks About Wednesday Practice: