After Thursday’s practice Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson said that he isn’t sure that Therezie will be able to play when the season opens. He noted that Justin Garrett is running No. 1 at the “star” rover position and cornerback T.J. Davis is now getting work at the position to provide more depth where sophomore Mackenro Alexander also plays. Johnson said that the coaching staff has limited Therezie’s reps in practice, but did not give any specific reason why.
"We are a little nervous about our depth behind Justin,” Johnson said after the Tigers went through a full pads practice. “But Therezie, right now, we are not sure he is going to be able to play early and the rest of them are freshmen. We actually took a look at T.J. (Davis) this morning and let him play a little bit of it. A game like Arkansas, that guy is going to end up on the box a lot so I will have a linebacker who can play that spot also to backup Justin.”
Garrett was expected to start at “star” last season, but was injured after being the defensive Most Valuble Player in the A-Day Game. Therezie stepped into the role and started every game for the SEC champions. One of the team’s success stories last season, he made 57 tackles, up from his 2012 total of just four tackles. Therezie led the Tigers in interceptions with four last year and returned those picks 99 yards. He also made three tackles for lost yardage.
As a true freshman he played cornerback and saw action on special teams. He finished the year with 12 solo tackles with five assists. He averaged 22.4 yards on five kickoff returns. In high school he played in the secondary and also saw action at running back.
Commenting on the situation at “star” Johnson said, “You go back to the field alignment when they are out against the four wides and the three wides, the things that our offense does, we have got several defensive backs who could step up and run that.”
Asked why he was concerned about Therezie, Johnson said, “He hasn't had a lot of reps, a lot of practice reps getting Justin ready and right now we have got to get some depth out there.”
Head coach Gus Malzahn was not available for interviews on Thursday to ask about Therezie or other subjects.
The Tigers were off from practice on Wednesday following a scrimmage on Tuesday.
“I was disappointed in our scrimmage overall,” Johnson said. “Again, the main focus was to put the first group in some specific situations. That was really good. We did some what we call Dirty Show, that's blitz, live blitz and they also did some third and long, and that was really good.
“The scrimmage was mainly what we call Blues, it was some guys who are fighting and competing for starting jobs, some guys who are competing to get into that two-deep. I didn't think we made a lot of progress in that area.
“We have got a lot of information on some individuals, it did help us clear up a little bit, but I think our two-deep is still a little bit murky now. And, hopefully, we will have some more contact stuff here in the next couple three days, and those will clear up.
“Some of it’s good problems,” Johnson said. “We have got some guys fighting and competing for the same jobs, and it’s good competitiveness, but you would like for it to clear up so you can get a good two-deep, but overall, I thought it was about comparable to the first one, and you always want to see progress.”
Looking at the big picture on defense, Johnson said players missing practice time in the preseason camp has been an issue. "That is probably been my biggest frustration," he said. "You always come into camp and have some pleasant surprises and some disappointments. You kind of in your mind project which ones you think are going to come in and make a hit. There are always some disappointments and some really pleasant surprisess o those things you always expect, but the nagging injuries kind of have us two steps forward, one step back.
"There are some guys who've got the chance and the skill set to get right into the middle of things, but the limitations in practice have just been holding them back in fundamentals and understanding what we're doing in the scheme."