Day 2: Morning Practice Report

The Tigers were back on the practice fields Tuesday morning to begin their second day of fall camp and was there again to bring you the latest.

Note: Jeremy Kenny watched the offense today while David Helman watched the defense.

The team was in shorts and helmets again today, no pads yet. There were no players absent from this morning’s practice that were at practice yesterday. Ricky Dixon made his fall camp debut with the wide receivers this morning and walk-on Trey Helms moved to the morning practice today as a backup tackle on the offensive line.

Speaking of the wide receivers, there was already a noticeable improvement today over yesterday in terms of catching the ball. While they still dropped a few passes, it wasn’t nearly as many as yesterday. The group also worked more on the smaller details today, like fighting off jams at the line and blocking assignments on running plays.

As they were going through blocking assignments, they always lined up in three receiver sets, usually two at the top and one on the bottom. In the first trio, Demetrius Byrd was always the X receiver, Terrance Toliver was always the Z receiver, and Brandon Lafell was always in the slot. In the second trio, RJ Jackson was always the X receiver, Chris Mitchell was always the Z receiver, and Jared Mitchell was always in the slot.

The offensive line worked on different blocking schemes today. They especially worked on the tackles pulling. Coach Studarawa watched the tackles very closely as they did this to make sure they stayed close to the line and took the right angle.

As mentioned earlier Trey Helms, the younger brother of Brett Helms, was moved to the morning practice today after practicing in the afternoon yesterday. He lined up at left tackle behind Ciron Black and Ernest McCoy moved over to right tackle behind Joseph Barksdale. I suspect this move was made to give Barksdale a breather in between reps for one, but also to help McCoy get experience on the other side of the line as it looks like he will be the primary backup to both Black and Barksdale this year.

On another note, Ciron Black has clearly stepped up as the leader on this very experienced line, which is to be expected as this will be Black’s third season as a starter. Whenever they were going through the blocking assignments, he was always giving advice to the younger guys on what they were supposed to do or what was wrong with their technique or a way to do something better.

The tight ends worked more of their blocking today, spending most of the morning hitting the blocking sled. They did get in some work with the quarterbacks on crosses and out routes. As was the case yesterday, there was a lot of teaching going on by Coach Henson towards both Mitch Joseph and Alex Russian.

The quarterbacks did not throw as much today as they did yesterday, and when they did it was usually shorter passes. The receivers were all comebacks, the tight ends were 5 yard outs or crosses, and the running backs were all swing passes out of the backfield. As you’d expect both Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee were on the mark today as a result, although there were some balls that sailed over the receivers’ heads on the comebacks.

After they finished their warm-up drills, the running backs spent a lot of time with the quarterbacks on catching passes out of the backfield. Charles Scott, Keiland Williams, and Richard Murphy are all very good receivers coming out of the backfield and all look very comfortable running routes and catching the ball. But I was surprised to see Quinn Johnson display such soft hands during these drills.

There aren’t enough touches to go around already with all these running backs so Johnson probably won’t be doing much receiving out of the backfield this year, but he was a standout running back in high school and does have some skills with the ball in his hands.

The defense’s second day of fall camp started out with a bang, as the coaches kicked the first-team off the practice field for not coming out with enough intensity. When they were given another chance, they exploded onto the field as if they were coming out of the chute at Tiger Stadium. Full-unit drills were similar to yesterday’s, but today it was the secondary that got some work with interception drills.

Chris Hawkins nabbed the first pass of the day deep in the backfield on the far side of the field. The second team took their turn at it and Chad Jones called off corner Phelon Jones on the near side for a nice looking INT.

The first team came back out, and Jai Eugene dropped into the backfield while Harry Coleman inched up closer to the line, giving Eugene an interception on the near side. As soon as the ball smacked into Eugene’s hands the coaches were sprinting with him and yelling at him to get the ball into the end zone as fast as he could. The drill ended with Danny McCray coming from the safety spot for a pick, and he got the same treatment as Eugene.

The defense then split up, with Curtis Taylor calling his DBs together. Taylor was joking with Hawkins as they made their way to individual drills, and seems to be acting like the leader of the secondary that fans hope he will be. Not to mention, Taylor looks like he’s bulked up from the 204 he’s listed as on LSU’s roster. Both he and Chad Jones could pass for linebackers. They look big, strong, and just plain scary.

While the secondary was warming up, the defensive line got to work on the sleds. The first team linemen were Tyson Jackson, Ricky Jean-Francois, Charles Alexander, and Kirston Pittman. They rotated with the second team which was Tremaine Johnson, Al Woods, Marlon Favorite, and Rahim Alem. Drake Nevis also got to work with the second team. They took quick shots at the sled and the impact echoed across the practice facility.

The line moved on to block breaking drills. The object was simply to explode out of a down position and get around the “block.” This was more of an individual drill so there was no order among the squad.

It seems like the linebackers are working on the cerebral aspect of the position more than anything else. If you’ve seen TSD’s pictures of Darry Beckwith and Company, you know these guys don’t need much more physical training. Instead, the coaches are grilling the starters on gap assignments and how to deal with the O-line.

Whereas the D-line ran repetition after repetition, the linebackers would listen to their coaches’ directions for two or three minutes at a time before trying it. Beckwith seems to have a total grasp on the material (understandable as he’s a 12-game starter) but the coaches were still careful to make sure he knew what to do against shifted blocking assignments. Sheppard got high praise on a play to the outside when he took the fullback out of the play, allowing Beckwith to make an unobstructed hit. The Georgia native earned himself a “Good Shepp!” for his efforts.

It was much of the same for the secondary today. The corners and safeties split into different groups for the first portion of drills. The corners began with footwork, and quickly shifted into jamming. Two corners took turns acting as receivers, as their counterparts stuck them right at the line of scrimmage. Like the linebackers, the safeties worked extensively on their assignments, not as much on physical drills.

Curtis Taylor, Danny McCray, and Chris Hawkins lined up against two receivers. The corner would take one receiver, one safety followed the inside receiver over the middle before dropping the assignment to the free safety. The other safety would then drop into the flat against possible backfield receivers.

Taylor, McCray, and Hawkins got looks at several different variations before rotating with Harry Coleman, Chad Jones, and Jai Eugene. One of the coaches standing near the sideline told Eugene, “Watch your spacing Jai,” as the sophomore had taken a very close stance on his receiver.

As the D-line began driving the sleds across the field, the linebackers and defensive backs mixed groups to combine what they were working on. The back seven consisted of Riley, Beckwith, Sheppard, Eugene, Hawkins, Taylor, and Coleman. Beckwith got high praise for his coverage ability when he dropped back between the safeties to cover an inside receiver. Sheppard and Riley broke into outside zones to cover potential dump-off passes, as the outside receivers took Hawkins and Eugene deep into the backfield on nearly every repetition.

Across the field, the main portion of the line was doing 1 vs. 1 block-breaking. One player was used as an offensive lineman, while the defender tried to break through his block. Off to the side, Tyson Jackson and Kirston Pittman were working on their own at dealing with double teams. Each end was taking turns going against two blockers, and were taking advice from coaches on how best to get through or around a double team. This seemed entirely fitting as one or the other of these two is going to be looking down quite a few double teams all season long.

With the secondary still working on coverage the media session ended. But TSD will be back out on the fields for the freshmen session later today, and hopefully it’ll stay dry enough to cover the whole thing.

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