Baton Rouge --- With the wind coming off the Mississippi River the Bayou Bengals practiced under sunny skies for their second go of the spring session, which will run through April 9.
With three new names – quarterback Zach Mettenberger, defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, and running back Kenny Hilliard – and two new coaches – offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe and special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey – it was day for the cameras, seeing the local media flock to the morning workout to get a glimpse their first glimpse of the Tigers since their win over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
Here are some notes to take home from the day.
Everybody lined up to see Junior College transfer Zach Mettenberger, but the pair of veterans – Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee – set the tone on a day where all three quarterbacks had their moments.
Jefferson was consistent on almost every throw, excelling when offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe worked the trio out on roll-out passing plays. Jefferson has the quickest feet of the group and is the only scrambler the Tigers will have in their arsenal.
Mettenberger showed a very strong arm and some great footwork, dropping back and stepping up into the pocket with very fluid motion. The players had talked about how good his mechanics are, and he showed that off on day one. He’s got some good touch to his throws which should pay off, because the receivers helped him little with their drops. Getting used to the zip on Mettenberger’s passes will take a bit of time, but that’s what spring is all about.
Lee looked like typical Lee. He has sound technique and looks best when they work on the short and intermediate routes. Miles said that competition will really be between Lee and Mettenberger for who is the other option outside of Jordan, so that’s something to keep an eye on as things move forward.
On the negative side, safety Eric Reid was noticeably hobbled with a left ankle problem. He gingerly ran through a couple of drills, and at one point the was sitting on the sideline with his foot propped on his helmet.
On the positive side of things, cornerback Mo Claiborne was dressed out and participating fully with the first-team in every drill. Miles said that his ankle injury would hold him back for the start of spring, but he looks in good health right now.
Safety Brandon Taylor (foot surgery) was wearing green and hobbling just a bit, but he too participated fully in every drill.
Defensive end Sam Montgomery was in green, as well. He was sporting a nice scar on his surgically repair knee. He went through all of the bag drills, and when the group started contact drills he sat out. Sitting out to Montgomery, though, still means a great deal of involvement. The sophomore-to-be broke the defensive line huddles between every drill and was extremely vocal the entire time. He seems to have really embraced his leadership role.
I spent a good deal of time watching the defensive linemen today. First off, early enrollee Anthony Johnson made a strong impression on everyone that was watching. Physically he is already matured to SEC size, and there is no doubt that he will contribute in the fall. He’s quick through the drills and showed some power punching away the dummies.
Michael Brockers, who is going to be counted upon heavily in the fall, looks to be moving very well for his impressive size. He’s listed at 6-foot-6, 300-pounds, and he carries it well.
On the flip side, Chris Davenport looks noticeably slower than guys like Brockers, Johnson and Josh Downs. He stumbled over some of the bags during the footwork drills, and just doesn’t look comfortable.
Ryan Baker and Kevin Minter ran first through the linebacker drills. It would appear that John Chavis is comfortable with Minter in the middle and Baker staying on the weakside. Those two look to be emerging as locks to start the season. Stefoin Francois and Karnell Hatcher will battle for the third spot as starter on the strongside.
The first four guys through all of the drills were Michael Ford, Spencer Ware, James Stampley and J.C. Copeland. Brandon Worle was practicing and not wearing a green jersey, but it looks like Stampley and Copeland, last year’s primary fullbacks, will get the first look. Copeland looks the part and should move ahead.
2010 signee Kenny Hillard ran behind Ford, Ware, Alfred Blue and Jakhari Gore. Hilliard, like Anthony Johnson, already looks the part. But unlike Johnson, his position is very deep, so it may take the youngster some time to see the field.