Note: Jeremy Kenny observed the offense, while David Helman watched the defense.
The media was allowed to watch four periods, which equated to 20 minutes, and the team practiced in full gear.
On the defensive side of the ball, only linebackers Shomari Clemons and Ace Foyil were wearing green. As expected, Stevan Ridley was absent from practice on the offensive side of the ball, but he appeared to be the only player missing. T-Bob Hebert was the only non-quarterback on offense practicing in a green non-contact jersey.
The secondary got some full-contact work as two full units. The guys started out as usual with strip drills, taking turns punching the ball out of a receiver’s hands. The whole unit also did a brief stint doing form tackling, where they’d wrap their man up and let him go.
The cornerbacks spent a good chunk of time separated from the safeties. While the safeties worked on identifying receivers coming out of the backfield, the corners were working on backpedalling techniques and sticking with receivers coming out of the break. Coach Ron Cooper was advising his corners to “stay on their toes” no matter what until they know where the route is going.
The corners also took up a drill that focused on dropping off the receiver before breaking to where the quarterback threw the ball. The safeties helped them in this drill, following with slot receivers when they made their cuts. To conclude this drill, Cooper would have two receivers go out. When he threw the ball, everyone on the field had to break off his man and locate the ball.
The secondary finished the media period by forming into two full groups — first team and second team. The first team was Patrick Peterson and Hawkins at the corners with Chad Jones (free) and Harry Coleman in the safety spots.
Second team was Jai Eugene and Brandon Taylor occupying the corner slots with Karnell Hatcher and Danny McCray rotating at free and strong safety.
Not to sound like they weren’t working, but the defensive line didn’t do as much as normal during the media session today. The line worked on the 3-point stance in units, and also hit the sled, but I didn’t catch a glimpse of any full-unit drills. The closest it came was the guys working in groups of three on the stances. The groups seemed to be comprised by squad, as Charles Alexander, Al Woods and Rahim Alem went first, followed by Sidell Corley, Pep Levingston and Drake Nevis.
The line did work on a drill I personally have never seen at an LSU practice. Each lineman took turns knocking down blocks from offensive linemen, and the O-linemen were wearing pads that looked like giant oven mitts so that the defenders could really wail away on them.
The line took a long water break before the full-team practice began. During this period, Lavar Edwards and Chancey Aghayere both got a lot of solo work with the assistant coaches on coming out of their stance and beating blocks. Edwards especially got a long look, as he did the drill alone between four and six times, all the while receiving critiques from the coaches and fellow linemen. Al Woods also did some work on this, and also seemed to be working on dealing with double-teams.
As the media left, the D-line was setting up for the ever-popular trash can drills.
The linebackers and especially new defensive coordinator John Chavis are easily the most fun to watch on the entire LSU defense. The day started out with the typical pick-six drills, but things quickly went full-contact. Chavis brought over the running backs and laid out some blocking dummies.
The tailbacks were supposed to choose a set of dummies to run through and then lock horns with the opposing linebacker. Things got physical pretty quickly, and guys were bowling over each other and Chavis was either getting on his guys for doing a great job or for getting out of position. The running backs were mostly standing in the way of my vantage point and that made it hard to discern who he was commending or dogging. But from about 45 yards away I could hear him tell the backups to “Shut your damn mouth” while he was talking — giving credence to the early opinion that he’s a pretty vocal coach.
The linebackers also got to do a really fun looking drill in which they’d rush around blocking dummies and try to get around a running back blocker, as though they were coming off an outside blitz. Chavis was screaming to “drop the shoulder and turn him.”
You could tell the offensive and defensive players wanted to outdo each other, and it got a little more physical than you would expect from pre-practice drills. The highlight was when Kelvin Sheppard blew past Charles Scott, which clearly upset the senior tailback.
And for all you tape junkies who are excited about Kevin Minter, he didn’t fail to deliver either. Minter spun around his man and reached the quarterback with startling ease, and Chavis told him “Nice move! But accelerate when you come out of it!”
The ‘backers ended the day with another drill that had them dodging low blocks from tailbacks and wrapping up a ball carrier. It’s not anything that’s never been done before, but it’s much more than the media was accustomed to seeing last spring and summer.
The offensive line began today’s practice by hitting the sled once again. After that they lined up under the cage to work on exploding out of their stance and staying low on run blocking. The first unit remains the same with Ciron Black, Josh Dworacyzk, T-Bob Hebert, Lyle Hitt, and Joseph Barksdale. The second unit was Greg Shaw, Will Blackwell, PJ Lonergan, Clay Spencer, and Alex Hurst.
The running backs started today’s practice working with the linebackers again to improve their pass blocking. Charles Scott started off matching with Perry Riley, and he had some trouble slowing Riley down. Then he took on Sheppard, and Sheppard juked him during his rush and got right by Scott. Keiland Williams them came up and stymied Jacob Cutrera. Then Richard Murphy came up and almost whiffed completely on trying to block Ace Foyil. Overall the running backs did not look very good trying to slow the linebackers down today, and running backs coach Larry Porter was on them hard the entire drill.
After that they went to work with the quarterbacks on catching passes out of the backfield. Trindon Holliday was back practicing in his normal white jersey today after spending a few days in a green jersey. He also showed why the ball is typically handed to him in games because it seemed as if he dropped nearly every pass that was thrown to him.
Before the quarterbacks went to work with the running backs they threw to the receivers again to begin practice. They mostly worked on timing routes, especially intermediate comeback routes where they had to throw the ball before the receiver was finished coming out of his break. During these drills they would mix in play action, or fake the quarterback draw then drop back and throw.
All the quarterbacks had strong days throwing the ball once again, and they all seem to be pushing each other. After this drill they tried a drill where three of them would drop back and throw the ball at once, but there were some communications problems on both the quarterbacks’ and the receivers’ ends and this drill didn’t last very long.
However, during the drill we saw Russell Shepard line up as a receiver for the first time this spring. He ran one rep, a post down the middle, and he caught the ball. After that he went back over by the quarterbacks.
The receivers were split into X and Z groups again when working with the quarterbacks, with Brandon LaFell, RJ Jackson, Tim Molton, and John Williams at the X position and Terrance Toliver, Chris Mitchell, Chris Tolliver, and Jhyryn Taylor at the Z position. There were a few more drops than we had been seeing in the previous practices, but there was improvement all around in the route running and timing. Usually the only balls that hit the ground were drops, not errant throws or bad timing. John Williams was singled out by coach D.J. McCarthy a few times for the precision and timing of his routes.
Also, while the rest of the receivers were working on their agility cone drills, Lafell, Jackson, and Molton went over to work with Jefferson and Shepard on end-arounds.
That’s all for today, but we’ll have video and a photo gallery later this evening.