In what was the most intense practice of the preseason, the Tigers tuned up for Saturday morning's scrimmage with a significant amount of 11 on 11 work in addition to one-on-one contact drills and inside contact running drills.
With David Irons sidelined with a knee problem on Thursday, the Tigers made a position change with junior Kevin Hobbs returning to the cornerback position where he was a starter last season. The former walk-on moved to free safety in spring drills and was running number two at the position behind returning starter Will Herring.
Kevin Hobbs (49) waits for the offense to line up along with free safety Will Herring at Friday's practice.
Hobbs looked like he knew what he was doing from the outset. On four different occasions, secondary coach and defensive coordinator Gene Chizik yelled praise in Hobbs' direction after he made nice plays. His only low moment was when he got beat deep on a perfectly thrown sideline bomb from Jason Campbell to Devin Aromashodu.
Normally, that might have been the most exciting play of a practice if it wasn't the juggling, circus catch by fellow wide receiver Ben Obomanu. However, on Friday, in the first of two practices when the coaching staff changed the schedule after originally planning to work out just once in the afternoon, the fights took center stage.
The opening on the fight card was a heavyweight vs. a middleweight matchup as big offensive tackle Marcus McNeill and outside linebacker Antarrious Williams got into it with offensive and defensive teammates squaring off in support. Nobody getting hurt in the showdown, but the intensity of practice picked up after that one.
Fight number three was an intense one matching a pair of freshmen. Tailback Brad Lester, who was in pass protection in an 11 on 11 drill, got into an intense scuffle with freshman outside linebacker Montavian Collier. Fight number four took place just a couple minutes later with those freshmen going at it again in a rematch, much to the amusement of their teammates, who stayed out of the freshmen fights unlike the first one matching the older players.
Hobbs was joined on the first team on Friday by Montae Pitts with starter Carlos Rogers still sidelined with a twisted knee. Rogers was walking at the practice without a limp and should be cleared to play soon. Irons, who was injured on Thursday on what was a play with minimal contact, is having his knee re-evaluated before underdoing ACL surgery, which has not been scheduled yet.
Chizik and the other defensive coaches probably won't know about Irons' status for a while and are working under the assumption that he won't be back. On Friday, the number two cornerbacks were Patrick Lee and Zach Gilbert while true freshman Tristan Davis and Anthony Campbell handled the third team spots. Davis had one of the big plays of the session in the 11 on 11 work as he picked off a pass thrown by freshman Blake Field, took it down the sideline for what would have been a touchdown in a game.
In other news from Friday's practice:
*Fullback Jake Slaughter, who had a muscle pull, was back at practice running first team again.
*Silas Daniels, who landed on his head making a catch on Thursday, was back in action.
*The Tigers spent a good portion of the practice in 11 on 11 workouts with a lot of emphasis on blitz drills.
*QB Jason Campbell was on target with his passing as he picked out a variety of targets.
*Freshman tailback Jerald Watson, who had been sidelined with a sore thigh, was back practicing on Friday.
Brandon Cox throws the football at Friday's practice.
*True freshmen QBs and Calvin Booker and Blake Field shared the third team duties.
*Saturday's scrimmage is set for 9:30 a.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium and is open to the public. The Tigers will have a light practice in shells at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
*On an unusually cool Friday, the Tigers wrapped up the practice with wind sprints. Temperatures were in the 70s with a breeze during the workout.