The media observed practice for approximately 20 minutes on Thursday morning. The team worked out under sunny skies and in full pads. Terrance Toliver, Chancey Aghayere and Lavar Edwards were dressed in green. Trindon Holliday, Josh Downs, Perry Riley, John Williams, Tyler Edwards and Tajh Jones were not in attendance.
The quarterbacks – Jordan Jefferson, Jarrett Lee, Chris Garrett, Russell Shepard and TC McCartney - worked with the receivers, tight ends and running backs during the session.
Lee and Jefferson worked on swing passes to the running backs and fullbacks for a good portion of the time that media was allowed to observe, while Garrett and Shepard stayed with the tight ends and receivers.
While the strong arms and accuracy of Jefferson, Lee and Garrett has become evident, it was nice to finally get an eye on what Shepard could do when he is at his best. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton worked the freshman out on roll out drills to the tight end, where Shepard looked much more fluid with his throws (when on the run). Shepard also lined up as the final receiver through a number of coach DJ McCarthy’s drills, and his first step and quickness is simply unmatched. No matter where he gets on the field, it is evident that Shepard would be a difference maker right away.
The running backs worked in their normal order of Charles Scott, Keiland Williams, Richard Murphy, Mike Ford and Drayton Calhoun. The fullbacks were Stevan Ridley, Dominique Allen, Richard Dugas and Evan Stampley.
The wide receivers worked in the following order: Brandon LaFell, Terrance Toliver, RJ Jackson, Rueben Randle, Chris Tolliver, Chris Mitchell and Jhyryn Taylor. A number of walk ons were scattered throughout the bunch. While the order seems to change with each day – and often each drill – I fully expect LaFell, Toliver and Randle to be the starting three against Washington. With the addition of Randle, the Tigers have three possession receivers over 6-foot-2 – which should give Jefferson plenty of height to find a target.
Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa worked his reserves out for much of the session. Starters Ciron Black, Lyle Hitt, Josh Dworaczyk and Joe Barksdale were the only four Tigers not working out in the drills. T-Bob Hebert worked as the starting center alongside the reserves for the second straight day, while Greg Shaw and Chris Faulk manned the two tackle spots and Will Blackwell and Josh Williford occupied the guard slots.
On the defensive line, coach Brick Haley and Joe Robinson split the group into ends and tackles once again. Haley worked with the ends, where he lined up Rahim Alem vs. Lavar Edwards, Sam Montgomery vs. Mike Brockers, Pep Levingston vs. Chancey Aghayere and Bennie Logan vs. Chase Clement. The unit worked on punching through the lineman, where Alem set the tone with a number of moves that drew strong praise from Haley.
Robinson worked out his starting two tackles against a pair of linemen, stressing footwork and a quick first step off the line. Drake Nevis lined up against Charles Alexander and Akiem Hicks, while Al Woods lined up against Chris Davenport and Dennis Johnson (filling in for Downs).
For the first time since observing the team this fall, I saw Nevis becoming very vocal in given instructions. After his reps, Nevis would always turn to Robinson and ask for feedback (the only player to do so). When it was not Nevis’ turn, he stared at the footwork of Woods. Instead of Robinson handing out the praise, it was Nevis who responded after every rep with “great feet!” or “keep it up Al. Looking good!” I was definitely happy to see that the junior is moving into a leadership role.
Defensive backs coach Ron Cooper worked his second team out for much of the session, with Chris Hawkins and Morris Claiborne at cornerback, Danny McCray at free safety and Karnell Hatcher at strong safety. McCray continues to be the second man behind Chad Jones, while Hatcher is stuck in a battle that includes both Ron Brooks and Brandon Taylor. Claiborne continues to look smooth at cornerback, which adds another element to the freshman’s position debate. Whether he moves back to wide receiver remains to be seen, but Claiborne has certainly made his mark on Cooper’s side.
Check back later this afternoon for head coach Les Miles’ comments from the week that was.