Tommy Tuberville and his staff watched true freshman defensive lineman Tommy "T.J." Jackson trot back on the practice field after a major scare when he took a blow to the knee during the Wednesday evening scrimmage. "It's just a bruise," said Jackson, who went down when freshman linebacker Mike Sherill threw a would-be blocker out of his way and Jackson took a blow to the knee on the play.
T.J. Jackson (left) and Antwarn Franklin, another freshman defensive line, run drills at Thursday morning's practice.
Tuberville said that Jackson, a 6-1, 300-pounder from Opelika High School, has an excellent chance of earning playing time this fall. "I feel good, but it scared me at first," said Jackson, who added that his focus is on the short term rather than the season, which starts Sept. 2. "I just want make sure I do what they (the coaches) tell me to do and I want to make sure I do it right."
Another lineman who was injured Wednesday was not back at practice, but he should be in the starting lineup on opening night at weak tackle. Junior Mark Pera, one of the key players on the entire team, went down with a hip flexor on the first play on an inside drill prior to the scrimmage. It is too early to know an exact date for his return to practice, but it could be as early as next week.
Tuberville and offensive line coach Hugh Nall will give backups redshirt freshmen Steven Ross and Taylor Bourgeois a serious look at the challenging to play weak tackle spot this week. Bourgeois, who has missed practice time this week, has been cleared to return to contact work after suffering a shoulder injury that was not related to the problem that required surgery during his redshirt season.
Nall said that the Tigers definitely need Pera in the lineup. "He is an experienced player who is very important to our success. Of course, you would love to have him out there to build chemistry with the other linemen, but the good news is that we will have him back."
The Tigers drilled in shorts and helmets without shoulder pads on a hot, muggy morning that featured individual teaching sessions with the position coaches. The staff went over mistakes made in the scrimmage.
The Tigers wrapped up the practice with punt team drills. Joe Walkins, who is in contention for return duties, has been bothered by nagging injuries throughout the spring and fall and was not available for practice.
Tuberville says right now that veterans Roderick Hood and Marcel Willis are the leading candidates to be the punt return man early in the season with true freshmen Benjamin Obomanu and Tre Smith in the mix.
The Tigers will return to the intramural practice fields for a 4:45 p.m. second practice of the day on Thursday. They are scheduled to practice twice on Friday and have a major scrimmage at 8:30 a.m. at the intramural fields on Saturday.
Tiger Ticket Extra: Freshman defensive end Kyle Derozan is having his knee scoped today after suffering a knee injury in practice this week. He is expected to be out of action for several weeks recovering from a torn meniscus.