After reviewing game film from Wednesday's scrimmage, the offense was much sharper on Thursday as quarterback Daniel Cobb had a solid day throwing the ball.
After practicing for just over two hours, the coaches decided to test the offense and defense once again with a live goal line drill, the same drill that caused several minor fights on Sunday, the first day in full pads. Although the offense got the best of the defense for much of the day, when it came time to score from inside the 10-yard line the defense once again rose to the occasion.
Defensive tackle Dante Booker continues to improve his technique and energy on the field. Here he beats freshman Marcus McNeill in a pass rush drill while former Tiger James Callier watches in the background.
The first team offense could manage just a yard on four plays from the five-yard line as safety Junior Rosegreen and defensive tackle Dante Booker both made key plays in the series.
The second team offense was also stifled as linebacker Mayo Sowell was all over the field making three consecutive plays to keep the goal line secure.
The third team offense did manage a score as freshman tailback Tre Smith scooted over from the four with the only points of the drill.
There was plenty of good news on the field Thursday as injured starting corner Carlos Rogers returned to practice after spraining his ankle last weekend. He should be fine and close to 100 percent when the Tigers begin game preparations for USC on Tuesday. The same is true of wide receiver Joe Walkins, who ran Thursday but should be ready for full speed action by early next week. Defensive tackle Tommy Jackson also returned to practice in the morning session and looked to be full speed after suffering a scare during Wednesday's scrimmage when a teammate rolled on his knee.
After Thursday's second practice, offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino talked about what he saw on film from Wednesday's scrimmage. While it wasn't exactly what he had hoped to see, he noted that both quarterbacks did some good things, but also had some bad plays as well. He noted while it didn't make the choice any easier, they still plan to have a starter named by sometime Sunday afternoon.
"It was pretty much what I thought about Daniel," Petrino said. "He made some good decisions. I thought he looked real comfortable executing the offense and knew what was going on out there. He made a couple of errant throws, a little technique problem that we need to work on, but I thought he did a nice job of executing what we asked him to do. Jason (Campbell) made probably three critical errors. There were two plays where he got his eyes down and was looking at the rush, which is one of the main things that we've been trying to overcome, but he did set his feet and transferred his weight and threw the ball downfield three times real well."
One area that Petrino was pleased with was the running game where tailbacks Ronnie Brown, Chris Butler and Smith all had good days as did fullback Victor Horn. With a healthy Carnell Williams to turn to as well while trying to integrate several new receivers and offensive linemen into the mix early, he noted that the running game may have to carry this offense, especially early in the season.
"I thought we did some good things," Petrino noted of the scrimmage. "We had a good mix between our run game and our play action, but we need to do a better job on our third down conversions. We got to the situations we wanted to be in, but we didn't get the conversions. I was happy with Ronnie Brown. I thought he ran the ball real well. Brandon Johnson is going to give some punch to the running game as well. We're going to have to do a real good job of running the ball and taking care of it early and let the passing game catch up to it."
The Tigers put the wraps on two-a-days Friday with the morning practice scheduled for 8:30 and the evening workout set for 4:45. They will reverse their practices on Friday as the morning will be just over an hour in full pads while the evening session will be in shorts and helmets to conserve the team. Saturday the Tigers will hold their final scrimmage of two-a-days at a practice that begins around 9 a.m. with the scrimmage to follow at about 10 a.m..
In the afternoon the Tigers will have a short special teams practice focusing on the return and coverage teams on both punts and kickoffs. On Sunday the team will have its final open practice of the preseason at 4:30 p.m. before taking Monday off for the first day of classes. The team will resume practices Tuesday afternoon on the fields behind the athletic complex.