Fall Practice Report

After spending most of the firwst week of fall practice indoors with his team, LSU head coach Nick Saban jumped on the first chance he got to take his team outdoors - even if the field conditions weren't the best at the Ponderosa.

The natural turf at the LSU practice fields did not hold any standing water, but consecutive days of heavy downpours combined with high humidity made footing rather treacherous for the Tigers in Monday morning's workout. Rather than take his team indoors again, Saban kept the Tigers outside under cloudy skies and used the less-than-perfect conditions to his advantage.

"I really feel like at this time of year we want to go outside and get acclimated to what it's like to be in the humidity," Saban said.

Saban said he was a little disappointed in the "mental toughness" some of his players displayed on Monday relative to having to practice in the less than perfect conditions. But if the head coach had his way, he would like to see his team put in more practice time in the rain and slop in order to turn the same game-day conditions into an advantage for the Tigers.

Health conditions kept a few players out of action Monday morning, but the Tigers have avoided serious injuries thus far in August. Defensive end Kyle Kipps and defensive tackle Muskingum Barnes are being held out while they rebound from intestinal flu, and a handful of players nursing mild injuries were on the sidelines watching their teammates practice.

Cornerback Randall Gay twisted a knee in Sunday's workout and did not practice on Monday, and strong safety Brandon Williams was also an observer due to an unspecified injury. Linebacker Donovan Grayson limped along noticeably with an ankle injury but was not wearing a brace.

Monday presented Tiger Rag with an opportunity to see LSU's linebackers at work with defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs and linebackers coach Will Muschamp. Fundamentals and recognition of assignments were the main focus during the early portion of practice, and the group seemed to be well polished and ready for the 2001 campaign. Team captain Trev Faulk and fellow junior Bradie James are essentially two more coaches on the field, as both provided additional pointers to teammates during individual drills. Among the younger players who are expected to contribute this season, redshirt freshman Lionel Turner looks as though he is ready to take the field.

Compared to recent years, there is more depth to discuss on the defensive line. Assistant coach Pete Jenkins is also emphasizing technique with his players and has made evident strides with junior defensive end Kenderick Allen. He also worked closely with true freshman Marquise Hill, who has to learn to rely more on execution than the size advantage he enjoyed on the high school level.

The field conditions presented tight ends coach Derek Dooley with a chance to emphasize balance to his players. After they kept falling on the ground trying to get a fast start off the line of scrimmage, Dooley was able to explain why stance and footwork were more important than speed.

Watching George Yarno work with the offensive line, it is clearly apparent that this is the best conditioned group the Tigers have had in a while. Stephen Peterman is making a smooth transition from tight end to guard, and last year's starters on the line have the look of seasoned veterans.

Elsewhere on offense, Corey Webster looks as though he can pick up some of the slack the wide receivers lost when a neck injury took Reggie Robinson out for the season. During route drills with the quarterbacks, Webster was going high into the air and coming down with every ball in the air - not unlike one of those Frisbie-catching dogs.

Following a Monday evening session, the Tigers will practice twice again on Tuesday and work one session on Wednesday. Saban said he will probably put his team in full pads on Wednesday - the first day he is allowed to do so according to NCAA rules. 

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