One last practice before LSU Spring Game

There was a spring in the step of most every player on the LSU practice fields Thursday. It could have been the cloudy conditions that dropped the temperatures a bit, but it was probably because it was the last session of practice before the Tigers conclude spring training with the Spring Game on Saturday.

By the time the Tigers had their gear on, the two squads for the spring game had been "drafted" by head coach Nick Saban. Helping him with the picks through a conference call was linebacker Bradie James, who was still in the hospital recovering from a kidney contusion he suffered in last Saturday's scrimmage.

Saban said James' condition has improved and is not series, but doctors are being very cautious with James because they fear he would try to do too much, too soon and impede his recovery. There was a chance James could be released from the hospital Thursday night or Friday.

"They want to keep him under control and in bed," said Saban. "Bradie isn't real big on keeping still for very long, and I know he's getting antsy. We're just going to be over-careful to get him back."

Saban hesitated to say James' move from WILL to MIKE linebacker was a permanent one but did say there was a good chance he would stay put there heading into the 2002 season.

Redshirt freshman Lionel Turner has been given the chance to play with the first unit at WILL linebacker and joining in the competition is senior Dave Peterson, who played as the backup at SAM linebacker last season.

Adrian Mayes had been practicing at WILL the last two weeks of spring, but Saban explained why Mayes was moved back to his original free safety spot.

"Adrian did a really good job of playing linebacker but it was tough on him," said Saban. "There was a lot of traffic up there he had to deal with and it made it hard for him to make plays.

"But since he's moved back to safety, I find he's playing better because he's had a chance to step and way and look at it from afar. It seems like he's making more plays now."

Saban assessed the other position experiments he's made over the spring and gave a positive report on the new players at wide receiver. One reason why Shyrone Carey and Devery Henderson have progressed during April has been the move of receivers Jack Hunt and Corey Webster to the defensive backfield. The reduction in depth allowed more repetitions for Carey, Webster and redshirt freshman Bennie Brazell.

Although Brazell has not scrimmaged with team because of his involvement with the LSU track team, Saban said he has made great strides during spring practice.

One player who is likely done with position moves is sophomore Marcus Spears, who has practice exclusively at defensive end this spring. Saban said there's a chance Spears and Marquise Hill could be the starting ends in 2002 with Kenderick Allen moved inside to tackle.

"If Marcus and Marquise make enough progress, not physically but mentally, to execute, there is no reason we can't play Kenderick inside. He has been a real force for us there."

Another lineman on the move is redshirt freshman Rudy Niswanger. After starting the spring at guard, the Ouachita Christian product moved placed at center when Ben Wilkerson suffered a knee injury and will play at left tackle during the spring game.

Tickets for the spring game are available for advance purchase at the LSU Ticket Office (225-578-2184 or for $5 through Friday and $10 on game day.

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