Split practices continue

LSU head coach Nick Saban is pleased with where his 2003 Tigers are heading after the second full day of fall practice.

The only injury of any significance was wide receiver Devery Henderson who strained a hamstring in the 9:30 a.m. varsity practice. No further word was given on Henderson's condition.

Having the freshman practice separately from the upperclassmen and having to deal with the warm weather for the first time, Saban said now is the time where he finds his real football players.

"Today was the first day that the young guys were out there in the afternoon where the weather made it a little more discomfortable for them," Saban said. "Their ability to be able to persevere and still focus and concentrate, learn and get better is the sign of maturity that we're looking for relative to who can help us this year.

"There are a lot of good athletes out there. But it's the ones that can learn what to do, execute, focus and not get frustrated, and improve as players. If they can't overcome that they can't improve."

With the success of the split practices, Saban said that he may continue the split practices beyond the prearranged three days as long as players remain healthy.

"When we started it, we laid it out for three days," Saban said. "But when you start losing a guy here and a guy there, the numbers really get thin. As long as we can manage it from a numbers standpoint, I think we'll continue to do it.

"I would personally like to do it for the benefit of the young players. They benefit from it more than the older players. I think what it does for our older players is we can go on the field for two hours and get lots of reps, be done with it and they're done.

Saban is particularly pleased with the individual time with the newcomers that the split practices give the coaching staff.

"There's such a difference in the two levels of where the players (upperclassmen and newcomers are)," Saban said. "It takes almost twice as long to do everything with the freshmen that it does with the varsity.

"If you put them all out there together, you either have to spend a lot of time bringing those other guys along which takes away from the older guys or you go at the varsity pace and the youngsters don't get the time and attention and they learn from just watching others play and not being out there themselves."

The varsity opened up the second day of practice at 9:30 a.m. first with special teams work. Assistant coach Derrick Dooley worked on punt coverage with the Tigers and Ben Wilkerson was the deep snapper. Wilkerson was the snapper for field goals last year, but will be looked to replace Wendall York on punt deep snapping.

Playing his second day at linebacker, Adrian Mayes look impressive for the Tigers. LSU defensive coaches were particularly pleased with Mayes's coverage ability.

With Mayes no longer at strong safety, Travis Daniels saw an increase in playing time alongside free safety Jack Hunt.

Hunt expects Daniels, a former cornerback, to have no trouble adjusting to the safety position. "It's a little bit of a change for me because our strong safety typically plays more in the box with the bigger guys," said Hunt. "Travis had done a very good job as far as knowing what to do and being able to make the calls and adjustments himself. So far, we're fine back there."

As for himself, Hunt feels that bulking over the summer will definitely help out his performance on the field.

"I'm happy where I am right now," Hunt said. "They reported me at 199 (pounds). I asked them for a pound but they couldn't do it. I want to be at 200, but if I can hold what I need to hold (pounds), I want to play at about 195. I should be able to do that."

Two other players in the secondary that continue to draw Saban's praise our Keron Gordon and Ronnie Prude, as both defensive backs continue to impress during individual drills.

On the offensive side of the ball quarterbacks Lester Ricard and Matt Mauck had their second consecutive impressive day at practice despite a case of the drops by the LSU receivers. Mauck and Richard continued to show great touch on all of their throws.

Later in the afternoon, the freshman reported for the second day of practice and, as with the varsity, began with special teams work. Darius Ingram emerged as a leader on the special teams. The freshman linebacker was looked to for special teams calls.

Another impressive linebacker at practice was Domnic Cooper. Assistant coach Kirk Doll was particularly impressed with Cooper's ability to take his coaching on his coverage skills and lining up correctly and immediately show improvement.

In the secondary, Saban began teaching the defensive backs how to tackle correctly as was very pleased to see the immediate impact it had on safety LaRon Landry.

On the offensive side of the ball, Matt Flynn and JaMarcus Russell continue to improve. While both are imposing and very talented players, Flynn seemed to be more on target throughout the individual workouts while Russell worked with offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher on his five-step drop.

At wide receiver, former O.P. Walker standout Craig Davis showed great hands throughout individual drills, but coach Stan Hixon made an adjustment in Davis's running technique that allowed Davis to get to the ball quicker.

While Davis performed well, Dwayne Bowe and Amp Hill continued to stand out among the young Tiger receivers.

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