Heavy rains forced the Tigers inside for the first workout of the 2010 season. The upperclassmen, with a few exceptions, participated in the morning workout.
The team worked out in helmets only and seemed very upbeat to finally get out onto the practice field. The media was allowed in for the first 25, and it was a breath of fresh air to see the team back out on the field.
The quarterbacks were the only players in green “no contact” jerseys, and the only player of note absent was projected starting left guard Josh Dworacyzk.
Three true freshmen worked with the veterans in the morning session. Receivers Kadron Boone and Armand Williams showed their youth with a couple of dropped balls, but looked physically impressive in the process. Boone has good size for his 6’1” frame, and Williams, although a bit slender, can really run and jump (43” vertical and the state high jump champ last spring). The other 2010 signee to participate was Travis Dickson. The 6’3” 245-pounder worked with the fullbacks, who are short on bodies with the loss of Dominique Allen to suspension.
Here’s a quick run down on some things we saw:
Jordan Jefferson, who is entering his second full year as the starter, took the first reps at quarterback. Jarrett Lee and T.C. McCartney joined him in zipping balls around the indoor facility. Jefferson displayed all of the physical tools Tiger fans expect to see. He displayed a nice arm and delivered the ball on target with consistency. No different than any practice sessions in the past, Lee was throwing a very nice ball. While he isn’t the starting man anymore, Lee continues to push Jefferson to stay on top of his game.
A great sight to see was coach Billy Gonzalez, who was very energetic and vocal during the media session of practice. He seems to be a real shot of life to the Tiger passing game.
Senior Richard Murphy led the running backs in drills and looked to be back to 100% following his season ending knee injury in week two of last season. He was followed by junior Stevan Ridley and redshirt freshman Michael Ford. Senior Richard Dugas, junior James Stampley and Dickson took the reps at fullback.
The veteran receivers looked very good on day one, and the drills were run at a breakneck pace. Senior Terrance Toliver showed no ill effects from a broken hand that hampered him in the spring. Sophomores Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard looked very smooth hauling in ball after ball. Shepard looks very comfortable with his route running and ball skills, two areas of emphasis in his transition to a full-time wide receiver. Chris Tolliver, Boone and Williams rounded out a very athletic looking receiving corps.
The line spent the early portion of practice working on footwork and stunts. As mentioned earlier, Dworaczyk was absent. The groups alternated freely, so no set rotation materialized. Alex Hurst and Joseph Barksdale both look to be very big and strong.
Patrick Peterson and Jai Eugene are the unquestioned leaders of the secondary, and both were very vocal on Thursday morning. Cornerback Morris Claiborne and safety Brandon Taylor joined them in taking the first reps. The defensive backs spent time most of the time working on footwork, and they refrained from contact.
Karnell Hatcher, who was out for the spring with injury, was back with the group and looking healthy. Expect the hard-hitting safety to see significant time in the game when the Tigers look to stop the run.
The tackles and ends were separated. Both groups worked on explosion and quickness on the snap of the ball. The veterans Drake Nevis and Pep Livingston are big, quick tackles who looked very impressive. 6-foot-6, 285-pound Michael Brockers in the most physically imposing of all the tackles. Freshmen ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery look very fast and athletic in the explosion drills, so keep an eye on their move to press for time – and possibly a starting spot – on the outsides.
Kelvin Sheppard, Ryan Baker and Stefoin Francois took the first team linebacker reps on the sled. Sheppard is a projected All-SEC name, and he certainly looks the part. Kevin Minter, Lamin Barrow and Tahj Jones were also on hand. They are three names that should push for time on the field, and big fall camps will go a long way in helping them achieve that goal.
The freshmen will work out in the afternoon. Check back for a full report from the session.