Quarterback Jason Campbell had his best scrimmage of the spring, the running backs had another solid performance and even the much-maligned wide receiver corps managed to make a few plays on Thursday evening at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The spirited practice was the 11th of the spring for Coach Tommy Tuberville's Tigers and a get-away session with no classes or practices scheduled next week.
A smiling Campbell said what happened Thursday makes him feel better about the offense as a whole and his play in particular. "I think it was the best offensive scrimmage we have had since spring started," he said. "That is a good note before we go home for spring break. We can come back knowing that we got something done before the break and when we come back we have something to build off of."
Campbell completed 15-20 passes for 118 yards and had no interceptions and one touchdown pass. In contrast, senior Daniel Cobb struggled, hitting just 6-17 tosses for 67 yards while throwing interceptions to a pair of defenders having big springs--free safety Travaris Robinson and linebacker Dontarrious Thomas.
Campbell's impressive day would have looked even better if a couple of passes had not been dropped, which has been a big problem throughout the spring. However, the receivers did better on Thursday, something that Campbell noted. "Coach Tubs got on them a little bit and I think they took it to heart," the quarterback said.
The redshirt sophomore quarterback and others will finish classes on Friday before heading home for some time off after 11 practices. "We get the opportunity to go home, relax and have fun and take a break away from schoolwork and football and spend some time with your family and friends," Campbell said.
The Thursday scrimmage was situational with the offense and defense working on down and distance plays. The defense was more impressive early, but the offense improved as the scrimmage progressed.
A couple of big plays, a 33-yard halfback pass from Ronnie Brown to Silas Daniels and a 34-yard Daniels run on a reverse seemed to jump-start the offense, coordinator Bobby Petrino said. He also liked what he saw from one of his quarterbacks.
"Jason's ability to run and make some plays moving around showed up and that was good to see," Petrino said. "Daniel struggled a little bit. He didn't take care of the ball several times like he should have. It seems like they are going back and forth. They are just going to have to stay at it."
Tuberville said, "We showed signs today the first time offensively we were moving the ball on the ground. The quarterbacks hung in the pocket and we actually caught a few balls at wide receiver though we still dropped too many.
"We missed a few tackles defensively, but we put the defense in a bind today not letting them do some things they have been doing. We didn't have as many busts in assignments, which was a great sign. We still have a long way to go, but enthusiasm was great for the last three weeks and now we are going to take a few days off and we will start back on Tuesday in the first week in April. I told the guys I want them to come back in a great frame of mind and find our leaders and finish up on a good note."
Jake Slaughter 44 battles against offensive lineman Rich Trucks in Thursday's scrimmage.
Tuberville said the offensive line made strides this week in the Wednesday practice and the Thursday scrimmage. "I thought we blocked better. We worked hard on assignments. We have gone back to work on a little bit of technique this week, but assignments have been our biggest problem. We have just been missing assignments.
"The running backs have been running hard and I think we are getting a bit more of an idea of how to run this offense. It is a little bit different with two backs and a fullback in front of you to run the football. It takes a while for the tailbacks to find the holes and be able to break off off the blocks of the fullback. And, I think our offensive line held their blocks a little bit longer. Overall, I thought the offense probably won the battle over the defense today. I think that is the first time this happened this spring."
Carnell Williams was the leading rusher with 14 carries for 47 yards. Casinious Moore was right behind with 14 carries for 44 yards and two touchdowns. Ronnie Brown had 13 carries for 30 yards and one score. Victor Horn won special praise from Tuberville with four carries for 25 yards. He nearly went the distance on a toss sweep when lined up at tailback, but he stepped on the sideline.
Tailback Chris Butler has an ankle sprain and did not scrimmage. Fullback Michael Owens had one carry to score a TD from a yard out in the goal line drills.
Robert Johnson led the receivers with five catches for 44 yards. Daniels had two catches for 37 yards, Lorenzo Diamond made three for 31, Jeris McIntyre had two for 31 while Marcel Willis and Brown each had two catches for 22 yards. Moore grabbed three balls for 16 yards, Horn one for 11 and Williams had one catch for four yards.
Defensively, junior linebacker Karlos Dansby continues to shine. He led all tacklers with four solos and five assists, with two tackles for nine yards in losses. Linebacker Thomas was the number two tackler with five solo stops, but the man with the most big plays was redshirt freshman defensive end Steven Bouldin who had five tackles and all were quarterback sacks.
With 11 practices completed, the Tigers have just four more sessions left this spring, including the April 6th A-Day Game (1 p.m. kickoff, tickets $5). The Tigers will try to shake off the rust from their spring break vacation when they next hit the practice field on April 2nd.
Tiger Ticket Extra: A player who has made steady improvement this spring is junior defensive tackle Dexter Murphy. His position coach, Don Dunn, says that is good news for the defense. "Dexter has improved to the point where he is providing some competition for Spencer Johnson. I have been pleased with the effort we have been getting from Dexter."...Jay Ratliff, the converted tight end, is still not ready for action at defensive end after suffering an MCL sprain in the first drill on the first day of contact practice this spring. Tuberville said Ratliff should return for the final four practices of the spring...Wide receiver Joe Walkins has a pulled muscle in his ribs that forced him to miss the scrimmage...Running backs coach Eddie Gran missed the practice that lasted more than two hours and finished up under the lights at the stadium. His youngest daughter, three-year-old Sydney, is in Birmingham with a medical problem related to a birth defect. "Eddie's daughter is being operated on Friday morning," Tuberville said. "She can't keep any food down. They have to feed her through a tube, but that doesn't work anymore."
Tacklers: Karlos Dansby four solos, five assists; Donatarrious Thomas 5-1; Steven Bouldin 5-0; Junior Rosegreen 4-1; Roderick Hood and Mayo Sowell 2-3; Donnay Young 4-0; Mark Brown 3-1; Dante Booker and Bret Eddins 2-2; Rashaud Walker 1-3; Spencer Johnson and Lemarcus Rowell 3-0; Horace Willis, Travis Williams, Jake Slaughter 2-1; Reggie Torbor 1-2; Lamel Ages 1-1 and Roshard Gilyard; Karibi Dede 1-1; Dexter Murphy 1-0; Wayne Dickens and Antarrious Williams 0-1.
Quarterback Sacks: Steven Bouldin five; Dexter Murphy 1; Jake Slaughter 1; Karibi Dede; Dante Booker.