Although the Tigers didn't have full contact work, choosing to stay off the ground, they weren't able to escape the injury bug as wide receiver Justin Fetsko injured a knee early in the practice and did not return. His status is unknown and will be evaluated on Friday morning.
There were some additional bumps and bruises but nothing serious the remainder of the practice. Two players, linebacker Mark Brown and running back Chris Butler, missed practice time with cramps but are expected to be back to practice Friday morning.
Working in several newcomers on both sides of the ball, head coach Tommy Tuberville and his staff had the practice working at a brisk pace as often times three different full units worked in situational drills. While the day had its share of mistakes, he noted that he was pleased with the overall effort of the team.
"I judge the first three or four days by just effort," he said. "The guys are hungry and ready to play. We just have a lot of work to do. We haven't been in this offense or defense very long and we've got a lot to learn. These new players have to pick a lot of things up and we have to make sure we've got everybody in the right position for the next four or five days."
Defensively, several players had a nice day including outside linebacker Karlos Dansby, who intercepted a Daniel Cobb pass during a late 11-on-11 session. Also defensive tackle Demarco McNeil looked to be back to his old form with several nice plays in the middle of the defense.
Demarco McNeil showed his old burst from two seasons ago in drills on Thursday.
Others who had solid days on defense included Dante Booker, who showed brute force and improved technique from his defensive tackle position. Others of note include newcomers Ben Grubbs and Kyle Derozan, who continue to impress at the defensive end position.
"We're just trying to start back with the basics today," defensive coordinator Gene Chizik noted. "We're just trying to continue where we left off in the spring, doing the same things over and over and over again. Not really adding too many new things, but really pick up where we left off and move on from there...I think some of the young defensive linemen are going to help. The front defensive line, those guys have really come on. Of course, it's a whole new ball game now that the other guys are here, but they stood out at freshman camp."
Offensively, the quarterbacks took turns running things as Cobb and Jason Campbell alternated time with the first and second units while Wesley Hill and Josh Sullivan took turns running things with the third team with Brandon Cox ill and absent from practice. Fullback Brandon Johnson was perhaps the surprising offensive star of the evening session with several nice runs on quick hitters up the middle and also a nice sideline catch from Cobb. Also performing well were wide receivers Marcel Willis, a senior, and Ben Obomanu, a true freshman.
Up front Mark Pera, Ben Nowland and Monreko Crittenden had solid days with the first unit while freshmen Troy Reddick and Marcus McNeill showed they can hold their own physically with the older guys. Both were impressive in one-on-one pass rushing drills against the defensive line. A player who has improved tremendously since the spring is walk-on Drew Kirk, who is currently running second team at weak tackle behind Pera.
"I like the way they are competing," offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino said of the offense following the afternoon practice. "I like the fact that they have more of an understanding of what they are doing than they did in the spring so they've worked hard at it. We've still got a long way to go."
Petrino also had some praise for the freshman receivers after their first day of full-squad practices. "The thing that impressed me about the young receivers is that they didn't seem to be intimidated with it at all," he said. "Ben went out there and Montae (Pitts) and Devin (Aromashodu). They jumped in and got reps. They got knocked down a couple of times, which was good for them. They're going to learn how to do that. They didn't seem intimidated. They got right back to the huddle and got out and ran the next play. We're still a little bit behind the defense. We've got a ways to go to get where we need to be, but the kids are working hard."
The Tigers continue two-a-days on Friday with a morning practice scheduled to begin at around 8:45 on the football complex practice fields. They will practice at 4:45 in the afternoon on the intramural fields with the morning again working on fundamentals and learning with the later practice a more physical outing. Both practices are open to the public.