The Tigers worked for close to three hours and for the first time the newcomers spent the entire practice training with the returning players.
With more depth than there was in the spring with the addition of the freshmen and juco transfers, the Tigers worked three separate units with the top guys on the orange team, the next group wearing blue and the third group wearing white.
"I told our players at the end of practice it is going to give us a lot of good information as far as evaluation," Malzahn said of Sunday's practice.
He noted even though the Tigers are using the pecking order established in spring training, the depth charts are subject to change. "I would say all positions are pretty wide open until we get a week or so down the line," the head coach said.
Malzahn added that the coaches will get more good information from practice four on Monday evening that will again be in shells (shorts, shoulder pads and helmets) and even more on Tuesday when the Tigers are allowed to put on full pads for the first time this preseason.
"When you start to get into shoulder pads and helmets you can really start to evaluate guys and I just told them they are competing every day," Malzahn said. "We did have three groups so we had a lot of reps."
Freshman offensive guard Deon Mix (left) battles redshirt freshman defensive tackle Tyler Nero (right) at Sunday's practice.
Malzahn said the coaches will need to get in the video room and study exactly what happened in the busy practice to get a better feel on which individuals stood out. However, junior receiver C.J. Uzomah was willing to heap praise on what he saw from the quarterbacks as a group on Sunday.
"I think they looked really well," Uzomah said. "They warmed up well and we had a lot of individual periods with them....they looked spectacular, really."
Uzomah noted that the quarterbacks are shuffling between the orange, blue and white units. "I think they are all adapting really well."
Nobody has been shuffling around more than Uzomah, who played three positions in the spring, but is doing even more now. In addition to playing tight end, H-back and wide receiver, he is lining up as a fullback as well as a slot receiver.
"I am just trying to do my best for whatever they ask me for the team," he said. "It can be overwhelming at times, but we walk through everything."
Uzomah played quarterback in high school so learning the assignments at multiple positions is not new to him. He said he believes that is probably helping him now. "I think so," he said. "We are trying to learn big picture. That will help us in the long run."
With Ricky Parks being kicked off the team last week, Uzomah is expected to be a busy player this season. "He gives us a lot of flexibility," Malzahn said.
Commenting on the four-player quarterback competition featuring juniors Kiehl Frazier and Nick Marshall, sophomore Jonathan Wallace and freshman Jeremy Johnson, Malzahn said, "It is too early right now. After each practice you try to figure out each position if you played today who would it be? You gather information more and more at every position throughout camp, but it is way too early for me to be able to say we are going to make it earlier rather than later."
A player trying to solidify his position at the top of the depth chart is junior cornerback Jonathon Mincy, who was a backup last season in the opening game before moving into the starting lineup in game two and staying there the rest of the season.
Mincy goes into his junior year with 15 college starts under his belt, including 11 last season when he was credited with 57 tackles, which ranked fifth on the team. The cornerback from Southwest DeKalb High in Decatur, Ga., also finished 2012 with 41 solo tackles, fourth on the team in that statistic.
One of the themes of the first week of practice has been that the Tigers have momentum from a productive offseason training program. Mincy agrees that is the case because of the workouts the players participated in with the strength and conditioning coaches as well as the voluntary workouts run by the players.
Mincy noted the summer competition between the defensive backs and the receivers in the voluntary sessions helped both groups. "That (competition) is something that we are going to keep at a high level because at the end of the day they are preparing us for game day," the cornerback said.
Cornerback has the potential to be a solid position for the Tigers with Mincy and returning starter Chris Davis both having plenty of experience.
Jonathan Mincy has played in every game for the Tigers the past two seasons.
Asked if he believes he is on the verge of having his best collegiate season, Mincy said, "Definitely. Coach (Ryan) Russell and the whole conditioning staff have got me in the best shape since I have been here and now I am just trying to transfer that to the field."
The 5-10, 200-pound corner added he is eager for the season to start as the Tigers prepare for their August 31st opener vs. visiting Washington State to display his improvements since last year. "I can't wait to get out there on Saturdays and show off," he said.
In other news and notes:
*With returning starter Demetruce McNeal still out with an injury, sophomore Josh Holsey continues to work at safety. Malzahn said on Sunday night that the cornerback/safety is doing a good job at safety. The coach said the whole group of safeties is rotating and getting a lot of reps.
*"Star" rover Justin Garrett, a standout in spring, continues to play with a lot of confidence, according to his head coach. "I think that position fits him well," Malzahn said.
*Dee Ford, who was selected to the Preseason All-SEC Second Team selected at the league's media days, noted the new strict tackling rule in force the year forbidding high hits won't change the way he plays the game. Last year he was credited with six quarterback sacks and eight hurries.
"I am going to play as hard as I can and if it happens, it happens," he said. "I am not going to intentionally do it," he added, noting if he gets flagged for a high hit it will be an accident.
"It is going to be interesting to see how many people are kicked out of game," he said." It is scary. It is a violent game. You can't really control every little thing you do."
Gus Malzahn Video, Post-Practice
*The Tigers will practice again on Monday evening. Their first full pads practice is scheduled for Tuesday and workouts are scheduled every day this week with the exception of Friday.
More news, notes and discussion: