LSU Freshmen grind it out on Thursday

Focus on improving, not the heat.<br><br> That was the message LSU head coach Nick Saban and his staff tried to get across to the freshman Tigers who were going through their second day of fall practice.

The newest members of the LSU football team trudged through their workout Thursday at the Charles McClendon Practice Facility. Coaches supplied encouragement, in all forms, throughout the session held in the early afternoon's sweltering heat.

Saban had a few up-close-and-personal moments with a few players who were dragging at times and motivated them to press through the conditions. To the players' credit (along with the assitance of the LSU training staff), there have not been any heat victims in the portions of practice open to the media.

Thursday's practice presented an opportunity to watch some head-to-head matchups between the offensive and defensive linemen. While the defense showed a great effort, it was obvious that the Tigers have a very capable and promising group of young offensive linemen.

At tackle, Terrell McGill of Miami stood out in a blocking drill against defensive ends Ryan Willis, Alonzo Manuel and Tory Collins. Brian Johnson and Paris Hodges joined McGill in the drill and also fared well for the most part.

Another drill put a center and two guards on offense to block on a running play against two defensive tackles and two linebackers. Garret Wibel showed a strong surge off the line on virtually every play and handled most of his assignments with relative ease.

One player who gave this segment of the line and the blocking back trouble was linebacker Cameron Vaughn. He was making regular appearances in the backfield to meet the ball carrier.

A minor right knee injury slowed defensive tackle Doug Planchard for a while, but he hung in tough through the rest of practice. He probably won't miss any time with the injury.

Saban continued to work closely with the defensive backs, and it appears that Keron Gordon of Tampa, Fla., is emerging as the top newcomer from the group for 2002. The coach worked extra hard to "motivate" cornerback Troy Hankton through the rigors of practice. If he had any pre-conceived notions of being coddled by his coaches, Hankton had them shattered on Thursday. However, Saban was also quick to give instruction and praise to the young defensive back.

Skyler Green had some of the breeze taken out of his sails by the weather, but it was Saban who was on hand to get him focused on making improvements.

The freshmen will be back at work again at 7:30 tonight but get to gather their strength before joining the varsity players for two practices on Monday, Aug. 12. The veterans report to campus tomorrow and take part in a team orientation and conditioning tests on Saturday. 

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