Defense holds edge in first scrimmage

The consensus of the LSU sports information department is that the defense held the edge in the first scrimmage of fall practice, held Saturday afternoon at Tiger Stadium.<br><br>With the media barred from viewing the game-like workout, their reports indicated the Tiger defense stiffened after allowing the first-team offense to score on its first possession of day.

The scrimmage capped the first full week of practice for the Tigers, and head coach Nick Saban commented that his players showed the signs of going through four days of two-a-day practices out of the last five days. Despite the onset of fatigue, Saban said the hitting was good and that he saw good execution from the skill players.

 

Saban's first specific compliments were for the defense, whose highlights included two interceptions returned for touchdowns. Cornerback Randall Gay picked off a pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown against the second-string offense, and Corey Webster had a 55-yard interception return for a score against the first offense.

 

"I'm pleased with the progress that we made," Saban said. "I thought the defense played with a lot of intensity today, especially the first defense."

 

Linebacker Bradie James and defensive back Travis Moses each recorded six tackles and a sack. Linebacker Jeremy Lawrence led the first-string defense with three sacks. Defensive end Marcus Spears had four tackles, a sack and batted down a pair of passes, and defensive end Marquise Hill had a sack as well.

 

Despite the pressure the defensive line put on the passers during the scrimmage, Saban said he still doesn't feel he has the most effective combination available to him right now. He noted the presence of Kenderick Allen in spring practice allowed the line to generate a more consistent pass rush, and he said different combinations of players will be considered to improve this aspect of the defense.

 

One player who will be asked to help until Allen makes his return sometime next month is Lawrence, whose assignments as a strong side linebacker often call for him to line up as a designated pass rusher.

 

The Tigers scrimmage target was 50 plays, and the first-string players were used on roughly half of the total snaps. The chains were moved to simulate regulation play in the first half of the scrimmage, and the second half featured third-down, red zone and two-minute situations.

 

On offense, quarterback Matt Mauck completed 12 of 26 passes for 135 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His first drive went for 65 yards and took just three plays, ending with a 30-yard touchdowns pass to Michael Clayton that came on the heels of 30-yard completion to Reggie Robinson.

 

"I think there were times when we looked effective on offense, especially the first drive we had," Saban said. "We went right down and scored and we made a couple of big plays in that drive, but really we had too many bad plays to go with the good plays. We need to be more consistent and eliminate the bad plays through better execution, better decision-making and better judgments."

 

Mauck led the first offense to another score against the No. 1 defense during the red zone portion of the scrimmage. Running back Joseph Addai caught a 5-yard pass for the score.

 

"I thought Matt played fairly well for the most part," said Saban. "I don't think he had the type of protection we're going to need for him. That's something we need to continue to improve on. He made some plays on good throws today and also some athletic plays, scrambled around and made some good plays."

 

The rest of the offensive plays were split between backup quarterbacks Rick Clausen and Michael Harrison. Clausen, who played with the No. 2 offense, nearly matched Mauck's numbers with 12 completions on 26 attempts for 131 yards with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions. Harrison was 4-of-7 for 66 yards and one score.

 

Quarterback Marcus Randall, who continues to recover from a torn ACL, did not take part in the scrimmage and has yet to run a practice play in a ‘live' situation, according to Saban. He performed in 7-on-7 and group drills last week, and Saban said an evaluation will be made this week to see if Randall is ready to take full-speed live snaps. Based upon how he does there, it will then be decided if he can play in a scrimmage.

 

"Marcus has looked really, really good and been a pleasant surprise that he's come along this fast and feels as good about it as he does," Saban said. "That's a positive for us because he's going to be back for us some time early in the season. I just can't tell you exactly when."

 

The reserve running backs got most of the carries in the scrimmage, and redshirt freshman Ryan Gilbert led all rushers with 91 yards on 11 carries, including a 65-yard touchdown run against the No. 3 defense. Addai totaled 29 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Domanick Davis had 26 yards on five carries, and LaBrandon Toefield had two carries for two yards.

 

Shyrone Carey led all receivers with 57 yards on four catches, while Clayton had three receptions for 44 yards. Addai added four receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown.

 

Saban said the Tigers ended the scrimmage in good shape as far as injuries. Freshmen defensive backs Jeff Cook (bruised sternum) and Vernon Russell (leg) were not able to complete the scrimmage but are not expected to miss significant practice time. Russell was brought in for X-rays which turned out negative for a serious injury.

 

The injuries thinned a secondary that was already without Damien James and Keron Gordon. Saban said James should be able to able to return to practice early this week if he has the strength back in the shoulder he injured earlier in the week. Gordon was running on the knee he sprained on Thursday and should also be back soon.

 

Stephen Peterman, who missed two days of practice with a concussion, was able to participate in the scrimmage.

 

One concern Saban mentioned following the scrimmage is the need to find better players on the second units, specifically on both of the lines.

 

"We really have to evaluate a lot of the younger players," said Saban, "because I didn't think our ‘twos' on both sides of the ball played like we need relative to the depth we need to have on the team. It brings to mind the defensive line, but I thought the offensive line had the similar situation."

 

Saban did say he felt the depth and readiness at wide receiver and in the secondary were at good levels. Although he said the backups along the offensive line will be scrutinized, Saban complimented starting tackles Andrew Whitworth and Rodney Reed.

 

"We're a better pass blocking team than we've ever been," said Saban. "(The line) is just not tied together based upon what we're seeing and made a few mental errors."

 

The hottest competition on the field is taking place at weakside linebacker where true freshman Cameron Vaughn is challenging redshirt freshman Lionel Turner. Saban said both are enjoying productive fall camps, and he will need a closer look at today's scrimmage to see how both fared.

 

"…I'm going to watch the film," said Saban. "One of the things I want to look at is to see how those two guys really did, how many plays they made and how many they had opportunity to make a didn't, how man mental errors they made and how much intensity they played with. Both have shown they are good players but we don't know who the starters going to be right now."

 

On special teams, punter Donnie Jones averaged over 43 yards on eight punts. Place kicker John Corbello missed all three of his field goals, all of them from long distance and a couple into the wind. Saban still credited Corbello for kicking well, even with the misses, and said he made the field goals the Tigers need him to make.

 

Asked about choosing team captains, Saban said he hasn't decided when he will do this. Different approaches he's used have been electing captains before the season, choosing honorary captains for each game and choosing them before and after the season.

 

He says he is pleased with the leadership that has emerged on the team and how the players have supported the team through the rigors of fall practice.

LSU returns to practice Sunday at 3 p.m. and resumes two-a-days on Monday. The next and final scrimmage for the Tigers is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Rushing (Att.-Yards-TD)

Ryan Gilbert 11-91-2; Joseph Addai 8-29-1;Domanick Davis 5-26-0; LaBrandon Toefield 2-2-0

 

Passing (Att.-Comp.-Yards-TD-Int.)

Matt Mauck 26-12-135-2-1; Rick Clausen 26-12-131-1-2;Michael Harrison 7-4-66-1-0; Lester Ricard 4-1-10-0-0

 

Receiving (Rec.-Yards-TD)

Shyrone Carey 4-57-0; Joseph Addai 4-33-1;Michael Clayton 3-44-1; Skyler Green 3-22-0; Domanick Davis 3-17-0;David Jones 2-26-1

 

Punting (No.-Yards-Avg.)

Donnie Jones 8-349-43.6

 

Interceptions (No.-Yards)

Corey Webster 1-55; Randall Gay 1-52; Ronnie Prude 1-0

 

Field Goals (Att.-Made-Missed)

John Corbello 3-0-53, 49, 47

 

Leading Tacklers (Tackles-Sacks)

Bradie James 6-1; Travis Moses 6-1; Lionel Turner 5-0; Adrian Mayes 5-0;

Marcus Spears 4-1; Jeremy Lawrence 3-3 


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