Following a short scrimmage on Saturday, head coach Les Miles welcomed his team back to camp with a morning and afternoon practice. The media observed the Tigers in full pads for three, five-minute sessions.
Injuries were the main storyline from last week. On Monday, the song remained the same.
For the first time this fall, quarterback Jarrett Lee missed practice (minor injury). Jordan Jefferson, Chris Garrett and Russell Shepard split the reps during passing drills with the wide receivers, while walk on quarterback TC McCartney joined on with assistant coach Larry Porter in a workout with the running backs.
The wide receivers were split into two groups, with (in order) Brandon LaFell, Ian Harding, Jarred Joseph and Chris Tolliver running in one group and Terrance Toliver, Chris Mitchell, Jhyryn Taylor and Rueben Randle in the second group.
The winner from the session had to be Toliver, who ran crisp routes and showed phenomenal hands throughout the workout. Even wide receivers coach DJ McCarthy showered the junior with praise, screaming “I see you, T!” after Toliver reversed his body and snagged a poorly thrown ball out of the air.
Miles said that Randle impressed in Saturday’s scrimmage, though the true freshman has yet to break into the top half of the wide receiver work order during practice. The focus is certainly coming around, but I still see Randle dropping balls that were put right into his hands. Hopefully progress continues to be made, for the Tigers appear to be only about five deep at the spot.
Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa worked his second team out for the first half of the session, then moved his first team in for the final reps.
On the second team, Greg Shaw and Chris Faulk lined up at tackle, Alex Hurst and Will Blackwell at guard and PJ Lonergan at center. The first team ran in the normal order of Ciron Black at left tackle, Josh Dworaczyk at left guard, T-Bob Hebert at center, Lyle Hitt at right guard and Joe Barksdale at right tackle.
Coach Studrawa must not have been too pleased with the unit’s performance from the scrimmage, as each rep was followed with a instructions on how to improve upon mental mistakes that were made during Saturday’s run through. Lonergan was getting a ton of instruction from his miscues in the middle, which leads one to believe that Hebert (despite his lingering health issues) is pulling away with the starting spot.
Defensively, the line worked out in their usual two groups: tackles and ends. After missing time last week, Josh Downs was back with the group and looking strong. The frontrunners for playing time remain Drake Nevis and Al Woods, with Akiem Hicks making a strong argument to pass up Charles Alexander on the depth chart. While most expected Chris Davenport to make a splash, the true freshman still has a ways to go before becoming SEC ready. While Davenport looks in the best shape of his life, his technique and speed remains a good step or two behind the rest of the seasoned guys. Hoping to have the big-man game ready, assistant coaches Joe Robinson and Derrick LeBlanc have given the Mansfield standout plenty of one-on-one time each session.
With Perry Riley still banged up – and in a green jersey – and Jacob Cutrera missing, the linebackers remain a question mark. Who will be the starting three, and how will they fare? On Monday, Riley lined up in his normal SAM spot, with Kelvin Sheppard moving in at MIKE and Harry Coleman at WILL. In the same package, Brandon Taylor lined up at strong safety and Chad Jones at free safety. Pat Peterson and Jai Eugene were the two starting corners, with Chris Hawkins and Morris Claiborne filling in as the third and fourth men at the spot. Karnell Hatcher played backup to Taylor at strong safety and Danny McCray backed up Jones at free safety.
With Peterson-Eugene-Hawkins holding down the corners, Taylor and Jones roaming the secondary and Riley, Sheppard and Coleman in the middle, the passing defense should be much improved – and a ton of fun to watch.
Check back later today for a recap of the afternoon session.