The head coach gave the session a thumbs up after watching his Tigers practice and then scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“We had a good one today, probably had close to 100 plays as far as the practice was concerned,” Gus Malzahn said. “We started out with special teams situations and then we had all live up front special team, we were thud on the ball carriers in all phases.
“We’re still trying to figure out, especially the young guys, of who could help us on special teams so that was a big emphasis.
“We also had a couple two-minute situations with the ones against the ones, twos against the twos and let our guys with officials get out there,” he said. “I thought that was good.
“Then we put the ball down and had a scrimmage, and we worked primarily with two groups,” Malzahn added. “The coaches rotated guys in and out. The emphasis was a little more throwing than it was before. I think we were close to 65-70 percent pass in today’s scrimmage.”
Unlike the first scrimmage, which was dominated by the defense, the offense had multiple big plays and in general held the upper hand, although it wasn’t dominant like the defense had been on Monday.
“I feel like we are doing good,” running back Peyton Barber said when asked about the big picture, noting that overall the offense is in good health, which is a major plus during a physical part of practice.
Barber, a redshirt sophomore, is pushing for a starting job and helped his cause with several strong runs on Saturday along with a 70-yard pass play on a wheel route. His position coach, Tim Horton, said that Barber has had a strong overall performance this preseason.
Junior defensive tackle Montravius Adams, a player who has also won praise from the coaches this preseason, admitted that scrimmage two wasn’t a defensive victory like the previous one. “I will say the offense did better, but I will also say we didn’t do as good because we have a high standard this year,” he said. “We didn’t fulfill that standard today.”
Looking at the big picture on defense, Adams said, “I think we are better than last year. We still have room to improve as you could see today. We gave up a couple of deep balls (including a 70-yard TD pass from Jeremy Johnson to Ricardo Louis).”
The Tigers are counting on Rudy Ford to have an all-star type of season as a junior.
Rudy Ford, last year’s top tackler, said that the secondary is definitely improved from last year and the same is true of the entire group on his side of the ball.
“The defense has progressed a whole lot since the start to now coming close to the end (of the camp portion of practice),” said Ford, who added that in scrimmage two there was a mixture of good and bad plays so the team still has work to do before the Sept. 5th opener vs. Louisville.
“That is stuff we are going to go back and correct on film,” the safety said. “We are going to be great and execute everything.”
Malzahn said No. 1 quarterback Jeremy Johnson and backup Sean White had good days directing the offense. “Our emphasis was throwing the ball today and letting Jeremy have more throwing the football,” he said.
“The offense did make some plays in the passing games, but also the defense did a good job on some of the passing situations, too. It was good to see some big plays out of the offense, but at the same time there was also some big plays the defense did today.”
One of the priorities in the scrimmage was to evaluate players who may be on the bubble of breaking into the playing rotation or not being in the game plan for opening day.
“We’re giving everyone the opportunity to put the pieces to the puzzle in all phases, and like I said, special teams is always important for young guys that can come in and help,” Malzahn said. “Then you evaluate them offensively and defensively and try to see where they’re at this point.
“Then as coaches, it’s very important to project the guys that really have a chance to help us this year, and the guys that are a little bit behind, but like I’ve said all along, there’s going to be quite a few young guys that do help us this year. That’s definitely confirmed, we’re just trying to be a little more specific and put the pieces to the puzzle, but this was a big evaluation day for a lot of the guys.”
In other news and notes:
*Malzahn had these comments on No. 2 QB Sean White. “He's had some good practices. You've got to understand our level is high for Sean. He has been in our system for year, our No. 3 guy. He got a lot of reps during the spring. I feel good about where he's at. He needs to keep improving. If he goes into the game, we expect him to play at a high level.”
*Senior Xavier Dampeer, who finished spring training No. 2 on the depth chart at center, continues to make a push to be the starter. Dampeer said he felt good about how he performed in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Xavier Dampeer was a little-used back last season behind All-American Reese Dismukes, who was a senior in 2014.
“I came in with a mindset to put in a lot of work and help the team out as much as possible,” said Dampeer, whose coach, J.B. Grimes, said he is pushing Austin Golson to move to the top of the depth chart.
*One of the freshmen who has performed very well this preseason, running back Kerryon Johnson, was held out of the scrimmage. His position coach, Tim Horton, said he expects Johnson to be back in action next week and predicted he will play early and often this year.