Tigers open spring drills with Saturday workout

LSU kicked off the defense of its national championship in a business-like manor on the first day of spring practice Saturday. The sunny skies and temperate weather at the Charles McClendon Practice Facility seemed a perfect match to the optimism currently surrounding the Tiger football program.

The 2004 team's practice demeanor bore a striking resemblance to the 2003 squad, whom Nick Saban called the greatest practice team he'd ever been around. In a press conference with the media, Saban expressed great pleasure with the team's first workout. "I was really pleased out there today guys," Saban said. "There was a lot of carry-over at a lot of positions. Not only in knowledge and experience, but in how we like to go about it."


According to Saban, the team has done a great job of conforming to "the LSU way" in the offseason conditioning and he likes not only the athleticism of his team, but also the work ethic. "Simple things like discipline, toughness, giving effort, and individual responsibility, those kinds of things are what you have to start all over and re-establish and not assume that your team has. I was pleased with the way the older guys retained it, the example they set, the attitude they had, and I'm sure that will have a good effect on some of the younger players."


Still, there will be some questions for LSU to answer this spring, and the biggest one is at the quarterback spot. In the first workout, senior Marcus Randall showed touted redshirt freshmen Jamarcus Russell and Matt Flynn that he won't surrender the job easily. Randall showed crisp execution on his drops, and was by far the most consistent passer of the three, showing excellent zip on out and curl patterns. All three quarterbacks had their moments though, with Flynn and Russell showing some nice touch on deep routes.


Some interesting competition is also expected on defense, especially at linebacker where the departed Eric Alexander must be replaced at the "sam" position. Kenneth Hollis worked that position with returning starters Lionel Turner and Cameron Vaughn. Phillip Maxwell, Willie Demps and Dominic Cooper comprised the second team.


The Tiger defensive backs looked rather impressive, earning some praise from Saban, who works with them personally. Junior college transfer Mario Stevenson, Daniel Francis and Keron Gordon all earned some praise from Saban during drills. With Corey Webster and Ronnie Prude also seeing snaps at receiver, there will be ample opportunity for the inexperienced DBs to get quality reps.


Freshman wideout Amp Hill showed that he's still not quite back to 100 percent after knee surgery forced him to redshirt the 2003 season. Hill practiced in a red no-contact jersey and had to sit out and ice his knee after running only six patterns.


A few other players sported red jerseys including linebackers Cooper and Vaughn, defensive lineman Jarrod Carter, offensive lineman Brandon Hurley, tight end Demetri Robinson and defensive back Jessie Daniels. According to Saban both Daniels and Robinson are nursing minor foot injuries sustained in offseason conditioning.


 A few other notes:


-Walk-on defensive back Andre Gill worked with the receivers and certainly passed the eyeball test. Gill appeared a little bigger than his listed 205 pounds and could be quite an imposing target.


-Linebacker Ali Highsmith will wear Adrian Mayes' number seven and looks very similar to Mayes, who was a converted safety. Highsmith may be a shade lighter than his listed 225 pounds.


-The cornerbacks looked very impressive in drills, especially junior college transfer Mario Stevenson. Stevenson brings good size (6-2, 193) to the position and looked very fluid in coverage.


-A few members of the 2004 recruiting class attended Saturday's practice. Ryan Miller, Quinn Johnson and Max Holmes were all spotted.

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