This season Coach Tommy Tuberville and staff wanted to make sure their team understood it needs to pick up the pace in practice to get more work done in time to open the season where they want to be both offensively and defensively with a strong challenge awaiting at Southern Cal.
That has been the case through three full squad practices thus far as the Tigers put in another good morning of work on Friday. Practicing for two hours, the team focused its efforts on getting as many repetitions as possible for both the offense and defense because that is the way the players can see their mistakes and correct them the next practice. Coach Terry Price says that the young defensive ends have already made progress simply because of the work they've been able to get in despite the time limitations the team has put in on the field.
Friday morning the Tigers continued where they team left off Thursday with the units working on the mental side of the game in position groups. Perhaps the best of these is the quarterbacks and receivers, who team up to throw routes together. Normally the quarterbacks would throw two at a time and work different positions separately, but not this season. Bringing with him the NFL style of practicing, offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino has four quarterbacks throwing simultaneously to four different receivers or tight ends to maximize the time the team spends on the field.
Quarterbacks Jason Campbell, Daniel Cobb, Josh Sullivan and Wesley Hill are shown throwing in a drill Friday morning. Fullback Jake Slaughter is running a route waiting for the pass.
One player, senior Lorenzo Diamond, says that he really enjoys the new practice structure and feels that this will really help the team in the long run. Conserving energy by hitting just once for the first week of two-a-days, the team should be fresh and ready to go when the time comes to hone in on the USC Trojans.
"The biggest thing Coach Tuberville told the seniors is that we were going to go out in the mornings and we're going to go through a walk-through kind of practice, but it was going to be all about tempo," Diamond notes. "We just wanted to go out there and try to get everything done at a fast pace. I think we did a good job of it.
"We worked real hard this summer with the passing game and seven-on-seven and it has really showed. There weren't many dropped balls, everybody really knew what to do. The coaches didn't really have to go back and do things a second time. I think everybody did a pretty good job."
Defensively, the team continued to work on schemes and getting players in the right places with Coach Gene Chizik moving forward in the implementation of his defensive system. Spending much of Friday morning working on blitz packages, the defense had an understandably up-tempo workout.
While the offense and defense got a good deal of work, the majority of the morning was spent with a continued emphasis on the special teams. After working on the punting game Thursday, Friday was time for kickoffs with Damon Duval and Philip Yost kicking on field one, return men and upbacks working on firing off the goal line on field two and the front line blockers practicing assignments on field three. As expected, tailback Carnell Williams was among the players returning kickoffs on Friday with Tre Smith, Ronnie Brown, Roderick Hood, Travaris Robinson, Joe Walkins, Devin Aromashodu, Ben Obomanu and Montae Pitts all in the mix as well.
On the injury front, wide receiver Justin Fetsko was diagnosed with a torn meniscus after going down during Thursday evening's practice. The coaching staff is hopeful that he'll be able to return in seven to 10 days. Also quarterback Brandon Cox was on the practice field but not in action as he tries to get over a bout of headaches. The freshman was wearing sunglasses during the practice.
The Tigers will continue their schedule with an afternoon practice set for 4:45 on Friday. The team will go out in shoulder pads and helmets for a more physical second practice session. The workout will be held on the intramural fields and is open to the public. Saturday the team will practice at 9 a.m. (special teams workout) on the football complex practice fields for a short session before getting ready for Fan Day at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, which begins at 1 p.m. The team will then practice a second time beginning at 5 p.m. at the intramural fields.