The Tigers were dressed out in helmets, jerseys and shorts and the media was allowed to watch about 20 minutes of practice. From what we could tell the entire team was at practice and participating except for Ryan Baker (ankle), Karnell Hatcher (groin), Jhyryn Taylor and Josh Downs (thigh).
Starting with the quarterbacks again, all were in attendance and looked better as a group than the first day. Jordan Jefferson looked especially sharp today in all drills including the option keeper. He also seems to have added some size to his legs and looks very good on the hoof. Jarrett Lee usually excels in practice but Jefferson looked better today throwing some really nice corner and in-routes.
Towards the end of our session the quarterbacks were working five receivers with two quarterbacks to ensure that each quarterback would only have to go through half of his progressions this early on. Barrett Bailey was working with the defense to give them a look at high velocity throws.
The offensive line worked outside and kind of far away from where the media was allowed. As of now it was from left to right, Joe Barksdale, Josh Dworaczyk, P.J. Lonergan, Will Blackwell, and Alex Hurst. Greg Shaw worked at the second right tackle, Will Blackwell worked at both guard positions and Chris Faulk was the backup at left tackle.
Josh Williford appears to be working in at both guard spots but he really looks like a tackle when you see him at first glance and not in action due to his massive size. The offensive line was working on pass protections today and it was nice to see Big Ben Wilkerson out there helping coach up the big guys.
The running back corps appears to be taking in Coach Frank Wilson’s new drills quite well. They started with some simple dummy drills for agility and then worked with the leash with someone dragging behind on the football. After the warm up drills Wilson really worked on the fullbacks getting outside the tackle for pass protection.
During the agilities, Richard Murphy appears to be full speed regardless of the green jersey; Michael Ford really looked good protecting the football and getting his head down, and as mentioned before, Stevan Ridley looks to have slimmed down and seems a tad faster than last year. The first three running backs look the part if all can stay healthy and the fullbacks look massive to say the least. Dominique Allen was running the drills first most of the time for the fullbacks.
There were eight tight ends in attendance today and they were working on base blocking all the way through to arm extension and then blocking out on an outside technique defensive player. After the blocking drills they worked on their take-off and five yard cuts on the box drill. Physically the best blockers appear to be Mitch Joseph and Chase Clement while Deangelo Peterson is the clear number one receiving threat out of the group. Clement appears to have picked up on the new position pretty well and is an imposing figure out there.
The wide receivers worked both inside and outside for our allotted time. Outside they were working on stalk blocking and it is clear that Reuben Randle and Terrance Toliver are the best at getting to their assignment. Jhyryn Taylor must have pulled something during warm-ups and was not participating in any drills.
After working with Coach Billy Gonzales outside, the receiving corps moved inside to run skeleton, five-wide drills with the quarterbacks and tight ends. Chris Tolliver got more of a shot at the slot/fourth position today with Jhyryn out and made the most of it with a few nice grabs. Tolliver really has the ability to get up field and into a runner’s role quickly.
It has become obvious that Randle has the softest hands on the team as he cradles every ball into the tuck and once his eyes have secured the ball it’s up field from there. Terrance Toliver was not one to drop any from what I saw and he is physically imposing as well. Russell Shepard made a couple of outstanding catches in the corner of the end zone which drew praise from the offensive line. Gonzales and Gary Crowton were both stressing the route audibles in concurrence to what kind of coverage was being shown and the receivers appeared to have them all in check as there were no mental errors.
The defense was once again put through the same drills at each position aside from the defensive line working on the drop read/interception drill. The defensive line did go through the downhill tackle drill again with Drake Nevis and Chancey Aghayere looking the most impressive and physical. From a technique and weight standpoint, Ken Adams appears to have a ways to go before he is ready for SEC football but he sure looks the part. Overall, Coach Brick Haley has this unit running well and with pride. He is on them every mistake they make and really focused on the physicality of the entire unit.
After the downhill and tackle drill, the defensive line worked on a circle drill where they move around a large hula-hoop to get to the backside of the quarterback dummy. This drill is designed to work on the footwork of a defender trying to get around a pass block on the outside to eventually end the play with a sack or fumble while bursting around the loop with the inside shoulder down and the outside hand ready to swipe at the exposed football. All were impressive in this drill but Nevis, Aghayere, and Pep Levingston really stood out.
The linebackers were missing Ryan Baker (ankle) again and it is very unclear who would be the third linebacker to fill in for an injury. Working on the tackle dummy, Kelvin Sheppard looks the strongest on his tackles but Stefoin Francois is on another level in terms of quickness to the hit while keeping those feet moving at an unmatched rate. Tahj Jones and Lamin Barrow would be the presumptive next in line. Jones appears to have proper technique but is again, lacking size while Barrow looks pretty good but isn’t near as quick as Jones.
Lastly, the defensive backs worked on a dummy to tackle drill that stresses lateral movement and then filling a gap quickly. Not surprisingly, Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, and Jai Eugene looked very good in this drill. It appears that Derrick Bryant is a strong tackler as well as special teams terror Daniel Graff. Graff always draws praise from Coach Ron Cooper. Ron Brooks moves through the drills so quickly but really lacks that “punch” on some tackles and Craig Loston appears to be learning and one can only wait until he really turns it on and gets the hang of things because he really has all of the tools.
That’s it for now but the Tigers will practice on Thursday for the fourth day in a row and we’ll be back out there to bring you all of the action.