"We lost Kyle Derozan probably for a couple of weeks with a knee today," head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "Hopefully, that's all it is. So it just puts more emphasis on the first and second team guys to stay healthy and get better. He'll still play unless it's worse than what we think."
Making impressive progress from when he arrived on campus in June, the 6-4, 240 Derozan caught the eye of the coaching staff during freshman practices and has continued to shine in full-squad workouts. His drive and speed off the corner had him in line for as many as 10 or 15 plays a game, but now defensive ends coach Terry Price and staff will have to look elsewhere for an able body because of valuable practice time being missed for the first-year player.
Already painfully thin with experience up front with just Reggie Torbor, Bret Eddins and Jay Ratliff (former tight end) back from last season after redshirt Steven Bouldin left the team, the Tigers will now depend on former end and current tackle Dexter Murphy to shore up the position along with true freshman Ben Grubbs. While the talent is there and depth is still not a grave problem with five able bodies, things could get pretty dicey at the position if the injury bug were to bite hard in the days and weeks to come.
Other than the injury to Derozan and a minor foot sprain of backup center Jeremy Ingle, the practice was one of promise for the Tigers as the offense showed some improvement both in the passing and running games. Working the first teams against one another in both inside drills and 11-on-11 work, the offense was able to move the ball consistently on the defense using a variety of sets and moving the quarterback out of the pocket.
"It was a good practice today," Tuberville said. "I thought the offense did a lot better. We're starting to run the ball a little bit more convincingly. We're getting tired obviously but we need to push through it. We've got a few more days of two-a-days and we've got a lot to improve on."
An area that has to be decided is at quarterback where sophomore Jason Campbell has taken what looks to be a solid lead in the race for the starting job. Showing improvement in both his delivery and pocket presence, Campbell found the going better in the secondary today as his receivers found the open spots that weren't available on Sunday.
Jason Campbell runs in Monday evening's practice. Dexter Murphy (91) and others are in pursuit.
"I thought the receivers and tight ends caught the ball real well today. We've been working on a little bit more concentration drills and the guys are improving. The quarterback race is still going on, but I think if we were playing today Campbell would probably be a little bit ahead because of consistency but we'll just have to see how the rest of the week goes."
One of the guys that had a big day was true freshman tight end Anthony Mix. Following a short stint at wide receiver, Mix was moved to tight end and the experiment was on. Now almost a week later, Tuberville said the experiment is likely over.
"I think he's probably found him a home for a while," Tuberville noted. "Unless we have a few more injuries that's where he will be." Which is fine with Mix. After going all-out to keep his weight down enough to play wide receiver, the 6-5, 230-plus gazelle can now use his combination of speed and size to his advantage against slower linebackers and smaller safeties.
"I know it's going to be a pretty good fit for me," Mix said. "I'm just trying to work hard and not make any mistakes. I feel like I can get down the field and stretch the defense. The only thing that is really different is the blocking. I'm getting there."
Defensively, the Tigers worked on getting the young guys more involved as veterans Demarco McNeil, Spencer Johnson, Reggie Torbor and sophomore Carlos Rogers all were held out of Monday evening's workout. McNeil and Johnson, having both battled knee injuries all last season, were given the day to rest their knees in preparation for a light scrimmage on Wednesday evening. Torbor has a slightly sprained ankle, but is expected to return to practice on Tuesday and the same goes for Rogers, who sat out both Sunday and Monday doing rehab work on a sore ankle.
The kicking game continues to be strong as both Damon Duval and Philip Yost are having impressive fall camps. Duval continues to be perfect with another 4-for-4 day from distances of 27, 32, 41 and 49 yards while Yost made 3-of-4 with a miss from 49.
The Tigers continue two-a-days on Tuesday with a morning practice scheduled for 8:30 on the intramural fields and a second workout set for 4:45. Wednesday the team will have a morning session at 8:30 before the first scrimmage of the fall at 4:45 p.m. All two-a-days practices are open to the public.