Saban: LSU weathering fall practice demands

LSU head coach Nick Saban remains pleased with his team through 12 sessions of fall practice.<br><br>After working out the Tigers under withering conditions Monday morning, the coach said he was happy with they fought through them to turn in another good effort.

The first of Monday's two practice sessions included a lot of contact and running, according to Saban, who believes the main reason the Tigers are holding up in the heat and humidity is the leadership of veteran players.

"It can get very frustrating during the dog days of two-a-days," he said. "but it's the maturity of some older guys that show the entire team how to work through days like today."

"It's all about your mental disposition," said wide receiver Michael Clayton, using some Saban terminology. "A few days ago it was just as hot as it was today, and we didn't have as good a practice. Today, we went out there with our minds on improving and not on the heat and we had a better practice."

The Tigers have another workout Monday evening and a single practice on Tuesday. The last two-a-day for LSU will be Wednesday before the final scheduled scrimmage of fall camp on Thursday.

Saban also credits conditioning in in Baton Rouge's demanding summer weather with helping his players handle the harsh weather. Spreading out two-a-days sessions during August to allow players to recuperate does cut into the Tigers practice time, but Saban feels the trade-offs are worth it. Plus, he says his schedule allows for more time in the classroom with the players, which means they don't need to spend as much time learning on the practice field.

After viewing tapes of Saturday's scrimmage, Saban reiterated his comments about the need for improvement among the second string players. In his words, they aren't playing like they will need to in order to back up the starters.

Both the defensive and offensive line reserves were the primary targets of Saban's post-scrimmage analysis on Saturday. Monday's practice saw Brandon Washington and Bryce Wyatt at No. 2 defensive ends and Torran Williams and Bull Hurley at No. 2 defensive tackles. Melvin Oliver has fallen back at tackle and Jarvus Ryes is the No. 3 end.

In 7-on-7 drills with the defensive line and linebackers facing the O-line and running backs, Cameron Vaughn worked with first string at weakside linebacker. Lionel Turner worked with the second unit but played the strong side with Jason LeDoux at middle linebacker and Eric Alexander on the weak side.

The rest of the second defense featured Travis Daniels and Corey Webster at the corners, Travis Moses at strong safety and Jack Hunt at free safety.

Saban also repeated his call for consistency from his offense, and quarterback Matt Mauck reinforced his coach's viewpoint. The 23-year-old sophomore said the offense's lack of reliability in Saturday's scrimmage frustrated him.

"I was disappointed in the scrimmage because we stopped ourselves," said Mauck. "The defense played great, but the reason we didn't score more was because of things we were doing."

Joining Mauck in team drills for the first time this fall was Marcus Randall. After being limited to group and individual work, Randall was cleared for full speed work with the entire offense in team drills that require him to run and scramble at times.

Free safety Damien James returned to practice Monday wearing a no-contact jersey. Saban said his progress will be followed to make sure chances are limited for him to aggravate the shoulder injury that kept him out of practice since last Tuesday.

It may be a week before three other defensive backs return to action. Vernon Russell was on crutches Monday after twisting his ankle in the scrimmage, and Jeff Cook continues to heal from a bruised sternum he sustained Saturday. Keron Gordon was also unable to practice Monday after spraining his MCL last Wednesday.

Center Ben Wilkerson had a no-contact jersey on this morning as a precaution, said Saban. He said players with injuries like Wilkerson's MCL sprain, suffered in a spring practice session in April, require management in order that they don't get overworked.  

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