Working for almost two and a half hours in full pads in extremely hot and humid conditions, the Tigers were put through the wringer by head coach Tommy Tuberville and senior quarterback Daniel Cobb said afterwards that it was the thing this team needed.
"That was about as tough as you could imagine," he said. "Especially for not doing a lot of team work. We had just 10 or 15 minutes of blitz work, but I think Coach Tub put a little wrinkle in there when he had us pursuing to the sideline after every play in blitz. That was good for us. He's right though, differences are made when guys are tired. We have to work on remaining focused when we get winded. That's what we were doing today.
"It will help us out a lot, especially some of these young guys. It's just another added dimension they have to learn about. It's good that we can get that accomplished here in practice and hopefully carry it over into the season."
The drill Cobb talks about is called a pursuit drill in normal practice sessions where both the offense and defense run to the ball after each play before returning to their respective huddles. Sensing his team needed to be pushed, Tuberville decided to change things up making the defense run 20 yards downfield to the West sideline of the practice field while the offense ran back to the East sideline. Giving each team the normal time allowed in between plays that they will get in a game, Tuberville reminded each player that this was the fourth quarter and they had to be mentally strong to get things done when they were tired and winded.
That session followed a practice that had both the offensive and defensive units continuing to polish their plays heading into Saturday's scrimmage. Defensively, the team worked on becoming more aggressive at the point of attack, specifically at the tackle spot. Working true freshman Tommy Jackson with the first unit with Demarco McNeil sitting out the morning practice, the coaching staff made it plainly clear they're going to play their best people regardless of age or experience.
Offensively, the Tigers continued to fine-tune the passing game with Cobb and Jason Campbell splitting time with the first and second teams while Wesley Hill had the third team to himself with Josh Sullivan out with a virus and a 102 degree temperature. Showing a continued improvement in his decision making and reads, Cobb says he hopes to show the coaching staff he's the man for the job on Saturday.
"I'm absolutely more comfortable with the offense," Cobb said. "Confidence plays a big part at this position and I think I had a day last week where I just felt nothing was going my way. It was either a bad bounce, a wrong route, a missed protection or just a bad throw on my part. I kind of feel like I'm in the groove now and I'm concentrating on making every play the best it can be and concentrating on every possession.
"Saturday I'm just looking for good checks. I want to get our team in good plays and execute all my footwork and carry out all my fakes. I just want to get more completions. That's one of the things we have to work on. Something else we have to work on is getting the ball to our running backs. I think we're doing a lot of good things except for those check-down routes to the running backs. Those are some of our best athletes and we have to get more of that in tomorrow's scrimmage."
In addition to Sullivan's absence from practice, offensive lineman Marcus McNeill missed the morning practice with a strained muscle in his back. The injury occurred during Thursday evening's practice and Tuberville said McNeill wouldn't come off the field and didn't until the practice was finished. Although the big 6-9, 347 McNeill wanted to come out Friday morning, the doctors said it was best he got some treatment to be ready for Saturday. After starting at tackle, McNeill has been moved inside to tight guard, a position that is easier to learn and play as a true freshman. He will still see some work at tackle as well.
The Tigers will practice once more on Friday in just shorts and helmets beginning at around 5 p.m. on the intramural fields. The final scrimmage of two-a-days will be held Saturday morning beginning at around 10:00 after the team practices for approxiamately an hour beginning at 9. A special teams practice and short walk-through will be held Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday's 4:45 practice puts a wrap on practices at the intramural fields this year. The team has Monday off for the first day of classes before beginning work on USC Tuesday.