Showdowns highlight practice session

The Tigers entered their third straight day of two-a-day practices at the Charles McClendon Practice Facility on Wednesday, and a couple of notable players were watching from the sidelines.

Starting free safety Damien James did not take part in practice after suffering a left shoulder injury in Tuesday night's session. According to strong safety Norman LeJeune, James separated his shoulder when he dipped down to tackle running back Domanick Davis.


Although James wore a sling around his left arm at Wednesday's practice, LeJeune says the injury is not serious and that James should return to practice soon.


Without James in the mix, some of the back-up safeties were pressed into extra duty. Jack Hunt took over with help from Travis Moses and Adrian Mayes.


"They're all coming along real good and making good adjustments," said LeJeune, "almost like Damien was still there."


At cornerback, Demetrius Hookfin has cemented himself on the left side while Randall Gay and Travis Daniels are battling for the job on the right. Gay appears to have the edge but both players are also getting work at nickel back behind Hunt. 


During a receivers-versus-defensive backs drill, Daniels unsuccessfully tried to deflect a short pass and fell to the ground. This allowed the receiver to turn up field and head toward the end zone untouched. Head coach Nick Saban has repeatedly preached to his players about not giving up costly plays, and he got that message across to Daniels.


"Our big theme in practice is to eliminate the big plays," LeJeune said. "Corners keeping guys cut off and safeties recognizing formations, knowing where the quarterback's going, breaking out of the middle of the field – just fundamental football."


The safeties had their trouble trying to keep up with Michael Clayton when he took off up the middle on his pass routes. By the time Moses made a read on one play, the ball was already in Clayton's hands.


Clayton and the rest of the Tigers receivers looked sharp on Wednesday, getting open with regularity thanks to precision route running. Reggie Robinson is quickly regaining his form after missing all of the 2001 season with a neck injury, and Jerel Myers' experience is evident when he is on the field.


The options are attractive for LSU for the fourth receiver. Bennie Brazell and Devery Henderson offer tons of speed and can separate from coverage in the blink of an eye. The one weakness both must overcome is route running.


There's also Shyrone Carey, who should be exciting to watch after the catch. His hands have improved dramatically since the spring, and he's currently running his routes better than Henderson and Brazell.


Beyond these three, the freshmen are working hard to get noticed. Here is where Robinson says he steps in to offer his guidance.


"Our team sets some high goals, being in a BCS bowl and trying to win a national championship," he explained. "So we've got to go out there everyday looking for that goal, working hard. We can't have the ‘poor me's' or anything. …The older guys have to express that to the younger guys. It's hard for them because some younger guys aren't getting as many reps as the younger guys are getting, so we have to tell them they're going to be a part of the team, too."

The other player on the sidelines watching the receivers square off against the secondary was high school quarterback Tommy Grady of Huntington Beach, Calif. LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher called him over to take a closer look at the Tiger quarterbacks. rates Grady the nation's fifth-best quarterback prospect. As a junior at Edison High School, Grady threw for 2,750 yards and 33 touchdowns with just 3 interceptions to earn first team All-State and Student Sports junior All-American honors. His leading contenders who've offered scholarships are LSU, Florida, Miami, Florida State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, UCLA and Southern California.

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