Day 2: Afternoon Practice Report

The afternoon brought the freshmen and selected varsity together for their second day of fall practice.

Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton worked Russell Shepard and Chris Garrett out at quarterback, stressing the timing of each route as paramount. No surprise, Garrett took home the prize for the best arm. His spirals are on point and his precision his nearly flawless. He looks so good throwing it that you almost forget about his best attribute: a 6’4”, 225-pound frame. He is Jordan Jefferson plus 15 pounds – literally. Yet, with experienced arms in Jarrett Lee and Jefferson already on board, it seems likely that Garrett will draw a redshirt and learn the playbook.

Shepard, the scrambler of the group, has yet to work out at receiver – which means that head coach Les Miles is taking a hard look at getting the Houston-native into a situational role under center come game days. The passes are not perfect, most of which arrive after a wobble or two - think Rohan Davey. Yet, the real fun comes in watching his legs, not his arm (which the media does not get a chance to witness). The word from the veterans on defense, however, has made it out of the confines of the practice field. Nobody can catch No. 10 when he tucks the ball and runs.

Running backs coach Larry Porter lined fullback Stevan Ridley up as the lead man throughout his drills, followed by Patrick Lipoma, Drayton Calhoun, Mike Ford and Dominique Allen.

It is great to see Ridley running strong and hard, for most feared his ACL tear during the spring would sideline him for games this fall. Not wearing non-contact green and leading the freshmen through the opening weeks of fall camp, it appears that won’t be the case.

The guy who catches your eye – when not gazing at Dominique Allen, of course – is Mike Ford. He carries 200 pounds extremely well, and he showed great footwork throughout the workout. Coach Porter does not become too vocal with his coaching, but he certainly tossed out a few words of praise at the Leesville product. Charles Scott, Keiland Williams and Richard Murphy are a nice stable of backs, but Ford is showing that things might not be settled in the top three just yet.

At wide receiver, Morris Claiborne impressed for the second straight day. He runs hard, catches nearly every ball no matter the spot, and can get up field in a hurry. Claiborne has everything you want at wide receiver, and he appears taller than 6-foot, which is what LSU has him currently listed at. Watch out for the Shreveport-native to move to cornerback some during camp, as Miles said that he wants to get looks at “Mo” on both sides of the ball.

Again, Rueben Randle looks like a lanky Brandon LaFell. At 6’3”, 201-pounds, the Bastrop standout looks like he is ready to put on a helmet and go on Saturdays in the SEC (after adding a few pounds between now and game day, of course). His physical appearance coupled with his abilities simply separate him from anyone else out there. Randle is bigger than Terrance Tolliver when he arrived on campus, which will hopefully allow for an impact to be made right away.

Other receivers on hand were Jordan Newell, Ian Harding, RJ Gillen and Karl Acker.

Rounding out the offensive side were the tight ends and offensive line, which worked alongside one another under the instruction of Don Yanowsky and Greg Studrawa, respectively.

Yanowsky worked DeAngelo Peterson, TC McCartney and Tyler Edwards, while Studrawa coached up a front five that included Matt Branch, Josh Williford, T-Bob Hebert, Ben Domingue and Greg Shaw. Carneal Ainsworth and Stavion Lowe stood off for much of the drills, becoming more so the students of how each play was run.

Hebert looks solid at center, where he is stuck in a battle with PJ Lonergan. Also, you have to love Williford’s size (6’7”, 336). Miles held the big man out of day one of practice due to conditioning issues, but let him loose on day two – where the Alabama-native showed no signs of lagging.

Cordian Hagans, who was moved from the defensive line to offensive guard yesterday, was not in uniform. He stood around most of the practice listening to instructions from coach Stud and holding an ice pack.

On the defensive side, the new faces on the line were the hit once more. Throughout the entire time media was on hand, Miles could not keep his eyes off the group.

Coaches Brick Haley and Joe Robinson broke the bunch in half for much of the session, with Robinson working with the inside guys and Haley taking the outside rushers.

When working with Chris Davenport and Josh Downs, Robinson had high praise for Downs. “Good attack, Josh!” he yelled as the Bastrop-native plowed into Davenport. One thing is certain, the pair of Louisianans should certainly provide some strength at stopping the run, for both already have great size despite being with the team just over two months.

Just as impressive were the group working with Haley, which consisted of Mike Brockers, Sam Montgomery, Chase Clement and Jonathon Nixon. Brockers (6’6”, 285) has put on about 30 pounds since getting to campus in June, and he looks like an animal. Coupled with Montgomery, it will be interesting too see just how dominant the 2009 class of defensive ends can be (and how quickly that domination comes). Big Sam remains the most athletic looking of the bunch, and Haley (far and away the most vocal coach on the staff) had nothing but praise for youngster throughout the first two days. At 6’4”, 240-pounds, Montgomery could use some extra weight. However, what is lost in that department is made up for with speed (at least for the time being).

The linebackers running with the ones were Rocky Duplessis, Kevin Minter and Ryan Baker. Defensive coordinator John Chavis worked with the group the entire time, and got after the bunch harder than he had gotten on any of the players through the first two days. Minter was mostly mistake free, showing that he has hit the playbook hard since arriving in January. He and Baker, who was bumped from the morning practice for KeKe Mingo, are the likely candidates for playing time at the spot this fall.

Ace Foyil, Lamin Barrow and Tajh Jones (who was academically cleared on Thursday) were also on hand, each showing their positive and negative moments. If you didn’t know better, you would mistake Jones for Mingo in a heartbeat. They both have the “I am tall and fast, but need to add a lot of weight before I can play” look, which means that Tommy Moffitt is about to be a major part of both Tigers’ daily routines.

Defensive backs coach Ron Cooper worked his men mostly in pairs, which mirrors the approach that he takes with the veterans in the morning. Derrick Bryant and Joe Maltempi, Daniel Graff and Karnell Hatcher, Stefoin Francois and Zach Elkins, and Tyler Glenn and Josh Johns were the pairs – showing that there was certainly no significance behind the names that ran together.

When set up alongside the linebackers (Duplessis, Minter, Baker), Cooper ran with Johns and Hatcher as the ones at safety. Bryant backed up Hatcher, while Francois backed up Johns.

Johns looks sharp with his decision-making, and I have a feeling that he will see some special teams action in the fall. I have also liked what I have seen from Hatcher and Bryant, both of whom are battling for additional playing time after positive freshman campaigns on special teams.

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