Working the second-team defense as the starters and the reserves as the second-team, the groups still managed a solid day on the field. However, the performance didn't please coordinator Gene Chizik, who wasn't happy with the effort and intensity from his guys on Wednesday.
"I thought that our young guys were very sluggish," Chizik said following the action. "I was expecting a little bit more enthusiasm from them as a whole. We're just going to have to push it and pick it up. We have to get to the point where discipline-wise they have to be able to line up right and do their jobs. Just from the overall look I wasn't real impressed with that. I was hoping the young guys would come out here and be excited about playing and jump around and have a little noise and have some fun. But I didn't really see that today."
One player who was having fun in the offensive backfield for most of the scrimmage was true freshman defensive lineman Tommy "T.J." Jackson. A dominant force for much of the evening, he went down with an apparent knee injury while making a tackle and his status will be evaluated on Thursday. Other than Jackson, Chizik said no one really made a move in the nearly 54-play scrimmage.
"No one really stood out that I can remember," Chizik noted. "Tommy Jackson did some before he got hurt, but nobody off the top of my head jumped out at me."
On the day the defense as a whole gave up 233 yards rushing on 29 carries while allowing quarterbacks Jason Campbell, Daniel Cobb and Josh Sullivan to complete 12-of-25 passes for 149 yards and one touchdown. Take away the 112 yards surrendered on two long touchdown runs by Victor Horn and Tre Smith against the third team defense though and you have a pretty solid day by a defense that doesn't sound too happy with the performance.
"It was alright, but we have to be in the game mentally," redshirt freshman linebacker Travis Williams said. One of the more active players on the field, Williams said the Tigers have to get their minds right when they step between the lines.
"We focus on being physical while we're out there, but we made a lot of mental mistakes. As far as running to the ball everyone was doing that so that's a good thing. We're basically finished with the . Now we have to let everything sink in. If we make mental mistakes from now on we just have to make them and go full speed and make the play."
With 10 of 11 likely defensive starters not participating in the scrimmage, the opportunity arose for some backups to move ahead in the race for playing time. One who may have done that is defensive end Jay Ratliff. Challenged by solid and emerging Bret Eddins at one defensive end opposite entrenched starter Reggie Torbor, the sophomore from Valdosta, Ga., impressed his position coach with all-out effort on Wednesday.
"Jay Ratliff played hard," coach Terry Price said. "I thought he was the one guy out of the group that really did some good things. He really shows he's getting better. He plays with effort and made a few plays. He made a few mistakes, but made a few plays. It was good to see. He's a first-timer out there. The rest of the guys just have to pick it up. I was kind of disappointed with the rest of them, the second group on. I thought Dexter (Murphy) made a few plays against the run if I'm not mistaken. Overall they have to play with more effort."
The first team did get some work in though as, following the scrimmage, it worked against the first team offense in a two-minute situation that was live except for the defensive and offensive lines. In what has become a ritual this fall, they dominated the session with both Campbell and Cobb trying their hand at running things without much success. The defense forced one turnover in the drill as a key member of the defense picked off a pass after going high in the air to tip it to himself on a deep ball thrown by Cobb.
Roderick Hood (36) is congratulated by his teammates following an interception Wednesday.
"Coach Chizik told me we were in a cover two and to get my hand on the vertical route," senior cornerback Roderick Hood noted. "I just tried to ride him and Cobb flashed the ball. I saw it up there and tried to make a play on it."
Even without the turnover, the defense stifled the first offense in the passing game as linebackers Mark Brown, Dontarrious Thomas and Karlos Dansby shut off passing lanes for the offense with their speed and quickness in drops and covering the flats. But the group still knows they have a lot of work to do to get ready to play a real football game.
"As a whole I don't think we did too good," senior cornerback Roderick Hood said. "We busted a lot of things that we knew what we were supposed to do, but we didn't go out there and do it. As far as the first team I think we did pretty good but we have to try to get better. We're just trying to play disciplined football. That's the key to this defense.
"We're pretty pleased but we're not getting too much on our high horse," Hood added. "Coach Chizik preaches to us every day about being disciplined and showing us our mistakes. We're just trying to get better every day."