"I feel like some guys are making some strides," Gene Chizik said. "As a group I?think they have definitely improved.
"We definitely need every minute of the two weeks we have left, but I feel very certain as we get closer to game time those guys will be ready and will be a group we can trust and rely on--but we still have some work to do."
After pushing hard throughout the month of August, the Tigers will have their first back-to-back days off prior to returning to the practice field on Tuesday evening.
"We need some rest and getting a couple of days off is going to be a key to our progress," the junior said.
Jake Holland talks with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
Holland agreed with Chizik about the linebackers improving in recent practices, including the Saturday session, which he noted was not a real scrimmage, but more of a walk-through practice with emphasis on special teams play and down and distance situations. "Things were moving a little slower than usual and I?had to get used to that," he said.
The theme for preseason on defense has been to play with a physical style, but on Saturday the emphasis was on other areas, Holland noted. "We got a lot of situational stuff done today, a lot of mechanics done as far as gameday mechanics. I?think we took a step forward."
Joining Holland on the first team at linebacker are seniors Daren Bates, last year's leading tackler, and Jonathan Evans, who missed spring training with an injury, but has come on strong in preseason drills.
In other news and notes:
*Chizik said that Quan Bray did a "nice job" with the live punt returns in Saturday's practice. "Nothing's set in stone there, but right now I would say he is the leading candidate."
Another sophomore receiver, Trovon Reed, is running number two at the position." Bray is also a possibility to return kickoffs.
*The Tigers, who will return to the practice field on Tuesday, are about where Chizik said he expected them to be two weeks out before the opener. "They are tired, they are beat up, they need some time off," he said. "They have worked hard. I am proud of them pushing through."