After the Tigers worked through their eighth day of fall camp, head coach Les Miles met with members of the media to discuss what has transpired.
First and foremost is the health status of a number of players.
On Thursday, Trindon Holliday, Perry Riley, Tajh Jones, Josh Downs, Tyler Edwards, Cordian Hagans, Alex Hurst and Clay Spencer were missing from action. Terrance Toliver, Lavar Edwards and Chancey Aghayere were dressed in green non-contact jerseys.
“This is that time in camp where the body starts to adapt to football,” Miles said. “Your body starts to understand the speed of the game and what it will be called on to do. By Tuesday or Thursday of next week, there will be a different group of guys practicing, and maybe more ready to do so.”
With just over three weeks until the season kicks off at Washington, Miles said that timing is paramount.
“Hopefully you start getting after it early enough that you can accommodate healing time,” he said. “There is a feel of the day and of the team for how much you should hit. I don’t think anyone has the exact recipe, and each year is a little different.”
As for improvements made thus far, the headman pointed to his offense first.
“I think we are getting better quarterback play, both from Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee,” Miles said. “The quarterbacks are improving, and I think our wide receiver play is good.”
Two Texas-natives who hope to make a splash at receiver this fall are Terrance Toliver and R.J. Jackson. According to Miles, both have made strong offseason pushes to earn new roles in the offense.
“[Toliver] has done a great job,” Miles said. “He has come in as a freshman and played, and then put himself in a position to lead. He did what was required of him – socially and academically - to step on the field and take care of business. He has shown that ability to lead.
“I suspect that [Jackson] will have a very strong year, and this fall will be one he will really enjoy,” Miles added. “He had an operation that slowed him for a year and a half and almost two years. He is much better and much more ready to play, and I look forward to getting him on the field.”
Another receiver that Miles hopes to have on the field early is freshman Rueben Randle – the consensus No. 1 receiver in the country from the 2009 class.
“Randle is a guy that really adds to the mix,” Miles said. “I think we are five deep. It is certainly enough, though we need a good, quality receiving corps in this next class. You are never as deep as you would like to be, but we are fine.”
Fellow freshman Morris Claiborne also impressed at receiver during the first week of camp, though the Shreveport-native has since tried his hand on the defensive side at cornerback.
“It is a fight [to determine Claiborne’s position], no question about it,” Miles said. “He has the ability, in my opinion, to play both sides. It’s going to be need based. I asked Mo today, and he said he would play either way. He said it was up to the coaches.”
That said, wide receivers coach DJ McCarthy and defensive backs coach Ron Cooper are already fighting for the newcomer.
“I think both want him,” Miles said.
Regardless of whether Claiborne moves back to receiver, expect Russell Shepard to get looks outside of the quarterback spot.
“I think Shep will get running back reps, quarterback reps and receiver reps,” Miles said. “Wherever there is an advantage, he will get those in a game.”
Defensively, the headman called out two names on the line as ones to watch.
“A guy who stood out is Al Woods, he is really playing well,” Miles said. “I also like young [Mike] Brockers, he had a nice camp. There are some guys making their way, and I like it.”
The Tigers will practice twice on Friday before scrimmaging on Saturday. Once tabbed as a “thud” scrimmage, where no tackling to the ground would be permitted, Miles has changed his course.
“We’ll tackle live [Saturday], but it’s not going to be an 80 or 90-play scrimmage,” he said. “It will just be part of practice, and the emphasis will be on the 24 snaps between the first and second units. We will go with the ones vs. twos to warm it up, ones vs. ones in a segment in the middle, and finish with ones vs. twos.
“It will be 12 ones vs. ones and six on the others.”