Note: David Helman took a look at the offense today, while Jeremy Kenny covered the defense.
Receivers coach DJ McCarthy set the tone for the day as soon as the media arrived, telling his guys “Job security, yours and mine. Let’s go.” While the quarterbacks warmed up, the receivers got to work on strip drills. McCarthy made sure the wide outs kept the ball high up and tight in to prevent fumbles.
The quarterbacks then lined up and began tossing 20-yard fade routes to the assembled receivers. Both Lee and Hatch kept their spirals tight, but the real highlight was Ricky Dixon and Brandon LaFell making some outstanding catches on a pair of overthrows.
The focus then moved to slant routes, with the receivers cutting from right to left across the field. Hatch’s arm strength has been a concern since the spring, but he was throwing the ball impressively hard and tight in all of his drills today (granted, many of the routes were 10-yard slants).
Les Miles cracked up the media during slant routes when he patted Trindon Holliday sweetly on the helmet following a reception.
The offensive line and Coach Studrawa continues to be one of the most entertaining parts of practice.
The line was once again working on pulling assignments, particularly the tackles. Brett Helms was not at practice this morning, but his brother Trey was there getting some work with the older guys. Coach Stud was riding Ernest McCoy following a mixed up assignment, saying, “You know what you’re doing on this damn play now Ernie? Good!” He was also coaching up center Ryan Miller, who was running with the 1’s in Helms’ absence, reminding him to keep an eye on the linebacker opposite him when pulling.
Yesterday Jeremy noted that Ciron Black was doing his part to lead the unit, and that could not have been more obvious. When he wasn’t coaching the younger guys, he was getting in the faces of the second-team linemen and trying to make them flinch before they were supposed to.
Across the field the quarterbacks parted ways with the receivers and headed to work with the backfield.
The receivers began working with McCarthy on shuffling and blocking upfield. Meanwhile, Hatch and Lee began working misdirection. With an assistant as the center, Hatch faked right to Quinn Johnson before handing off left to Keiland Williams, Charles Scott, and Richard Murphy.
The running backs also did some reps working as receivers. All three ran a wide variety of routes into the flat, including crossing routes out to the side, and Scott ran an out route out of the backfield that resembled his big gain in the national championship game.
As always, the offense began working together as a full unit just as the media left. The first-teamers began running options and it looked as though Hatch and Williams were serving as the starters in the drill.
On the defensive side, Charles Alexander was not with his fellow defensive linemen in drills this morning. Freshman Cordian Hagans was moved to the morning practice today after spending Monday and Tuesday practicing in the afternoons.
Linebacker Kellen Theriot was in a green jersey and linebacker Ace Foyil was not dressed out in shells like the rest of the team and spent most of practice following the linebackers around to the different drills.
On the defensive side, the coaches took full advantage of the team’s first day with pads on.
For the majority of practice there were three stations set up that the defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs rotated between. All three stations ran some variation of pursuing a ball carrier, breaking down, and wrapping him up. During these drills, Coach Mallory could be heard barking out instructions to all three stations on when to start, when to rotate, etc. While he still has the title of co-defensive coordinator along with Coach Peveto, it appears from what we’ve seen in these first three days that Coach Mallory has taken more of a hands-on approach to running the defense in practice.
As mentioned earlier, Kellen Theriot was in a green jersey at today’s practice. Usually a green jersey means the player should have limited or no contact during practice, but Theriot seemed to be going through drills just as he usually would. I’m sure Coach Miles will be asked about Theriot tonight, so hopefully we’ll have a better answer about him then.
On a side note, today was my first day watching the defense, and I was very impressed with Kelvin Sheppard and Perry Riley going through drills. These two look like they are both ready to step up and play a big role in the defense this fall. Shomari Clemons also looks a lot bigger than he did last fall and spring.
Surprisingly enough, the defensive backs were the hardest hitting group during the contact drills today. Not that anyone was laid out on the field or anything like that, but you always heard that solid popping sound whenever they hit each other, more so than from the linebackers and defensive line. After they finished the contact drills, the safeties split up and went with Coach Mallory to work on reading receivers’ routes when they are in zone coverage, and the cornerbacks went with assistant defensive back coach Corey Raymond to work on controlling the receiver off the line of scrimmage.
Jai Eugene and Chris Hawkins both have filled out a little more from last year and both look physically ready to step up into the spots vacated by Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon. Phelon Jones and Ron Brooks are also bigger and more confident than they were a year ago, which is very important as they will likely be called upon for significant contributions this fall despite being just redshirt freshmen.
Along the defensive line, it was certainly surprising to see freshman Cordian Hagans out there this morning going through drills with the veteran players.
During the contact drills Hagans was usually matched up with Tyson Jackson, which just didn’t seem fair. As you’d expect, the coaches took a little time after each rep he performed to give Hagans a little guidance and advice on what to improve on. I also thought it was interesting that Charles Alexander was missing from the first practice with contact drills. Although it may have nothing to do with his injury, and even though Coach Miles said on Monday that Alexander looked like he was ready to go, it should be pointed out that Alexander is still not even a year removed from that torn ACL early last season.
After they finished the contact drills, the defensive line headed over to the blocking sled to work on getting off the line of scrimmage on the snap of the ball. The first group to go through this drill from left to right was Tyson Jackson, Ricky Jean Francois, Marlon Favorite, and Kirston Pittman. The second group was Tremaine Johnson, Al Woods, Drake Nevis, and Rahim Alem. Pep Levingston and Cordian Hagans went by themselves in the third group.
As far as who is impressive looking on the line, the better question is probably who isn’t ?
All of these guys saw a lot of action in most of the games last season except Jean Francois, and he was absolutely dominant in the two games he did play in. They all look to be in great shape and ready to ensure that they remain one of, if not the top defensive line in all of college football.
We’ll have more throughout the day and of course TSD will be back out there this afternoon for the sixth practice of fall camp.