Note: The TSD.com staff mixed things up today as David Helman observed the offense while Sonny Shipp keyed in on the defense.
It was great to see the Tigers back in full pads for the first time this spring for TSD.com.
As soon as we got to practice you could see the quarterbacks working on their drops. The coaches had all of the quarterbacks in a line working on the technique of dropping back. Coaches were stressing to Jarrett Lee in particular the importance of that crucial first step after the drop.
Coach D.J. McCarthy had the wide receivers working on ball security. The first drill of the day had the receivers fighting to keep the ball from being knocked out of their hands. “I want you to turn left, the ball goes right,” McCarthy said. “Squeeze that elbow and don’t let him punch it out.”
While the receivers were busy the quarterbacks started working on running. After the drop back the coaches had the QBs turn up field with the ball tucked away. It was fun to see Andrew Hatch and Lee doing their best Jacob Hester impressions, barreling down the field looking for someone to bash with their helmets (not that they did of course).
Next the receivers and quarterbacks got together. The first drill had the slot receiver picking up the cornerback and freeing the outside receiver to run downfield. Brandon LaFell worked with Demetrius Byrd, Ricky Dixon worked with Jared Mitchell, and Terrence Tolliver worked with R.J. Jackson.
The receivers then worked on footwork on several different routes. McCarthy was telling them to drive their feet down in order to stop quickly on the curl, and the quarterbacks coaches were stressing the early release. They also worked on zag routes and the corner route. The corner route gave the best impressions of how Lee and Hatch were throwing. Lee started out a bit shaky, but his spirals tightened up and his release got quicker as the drills went on.
Lee’s first corner pass went over Byrd’s head, but he followed that up with beautiful balls to Ricky Dixon and Chris Mitchell. Hatch’s passes seemed a little wobblier than Lee’s, and each QB seemed to do better throwing to the right side of the field rather than the left. McCarthy was getting on players for messing up the step count, and had to get in red shirt freshman Ian Harding’s face about it.
The receivers and quarterbacks then split apart again to work on individual drills. The receivers ran a few drills where the object was to beat the defensive back off the line with swims moves or stutter steps. McCarthy praised Tolliver’s improvement, and when Byrd failed to get his move right, McCarthy joked, “One more time for Byrd guys.” The quarterbacks practiced the timing of handoffs with the backfield.
The offensive line was doing some serious contact. Lyle Hitt got the bulk of Coach Stud’s praise for his one-on-one blocking. They then moved to the sled, where the object was to stand the defensive player up on the line. Trey Helms got some kudos from the coaches with his performance. The third team unit then served as the defensive line while the first and second units worked on closing gaps during plays.
Coach Stud said if you could see the secondary through a gap, something was obviously very wrong. The tackles focused on taking an open outside step when they needed to get outside. Another focus of the drill was to get to the outside number of the rushing defensive end.
As we left practice the offensive began working 11-on-11 plays with the second-team defense.
A little extra time was spent watching the defensive linemen today and it was good to see Charles Alexander dressed out in full pads.
When we saw him on Wednesday he didn’t have shoulder pads on but today “Big Cheese” was decked out and ready to go. He moved around real well considering the injury he sustained and was probably going at about 70 percent compared to the others.
Some of the drills the defensive linemen were working on included hitting the sled and using their hands to shed a blocker.
Another drill they worked on had the linemen working on using their outside hand on the blocker and then using the inside arm to come over the top. Defensive line coach Earl Lane was really harping on the guys using that inside hand to get over and was heard yelling “arm over, arm over” as a reminder to his boys.
As we were leaving some second and third team offensive linemen went over and did some one-on-one’s with the defensive linemen and special teams/defensive line coach Joe Robinson was working closely with the ends at getting around the corner.
Several subscribers were interested in the linebackers, particularly, Kelvin Sheppard and the red shirt sophomore looks to be in good shape and taking advantage of the extra reps he is getting.
One drill pitted the linebackers and running backs against one another where the backers were fighting off the block to get to the ball carrier.
The first drill we saw matched Sheppard against Charles Scott and running backs coach Larry Porter had to get on Charles Scott for not hitting Sheppard. The two went at it again and once again Sheppard got the edge as he was too fast coming off the corner and Porter was telling Scott “lead with your head and not your hips.”
After the linebackers would come off the edge they would immediately go back and come from inside where the backs met them at the line and there were some nice collisions. No one probably wanted to go against Quinn Johnson as he was throwing some licks and standing guys straight up.
Porter was harping to his backs about hand placement on their blocking and he was very vocal during the drills we saw.
The defensive backs were seen working on thudding the ball carriers and by that I mean wrapping them up and hitting them but not bringing them to the ground. The DB’s gave a cushion of 10 yards deep and 10 yards wide and the ball carriers were running to the sideline.
After that co-defensive coordinator Doug Mallory and Grad Asst. Corey Raymond had them working on their back pedal and Mallory’s focus was on the guys keeping their pad level and staying square.
The DB’s then started working on another drill where they would take one step back and drive up like they were coming up in run support, followed by three steps back then five steps back.
That’s all for today but we will have more on Saturday after the Tigers’ scrimmage as Les Miles will meet with the media on Saturday afternoon.