The media was allowed to observe four sessions for just over 20 minutes as the Tigers worked under overcast skies for the second time on the day.
At quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, Jarrett Lee and Zach Lee led the way through drills, and Jordan looked the most impressive – one of the few days where he was able to really put together some throws consistently. I don’t think there’s much to be made of Jordan’s first week outside of the guys getting into the groove of full-pads in the fall. He’s got a number of practices to iron out the wrinkles. Both coach Miles and coach Crowton said on Tuesday that they needed more from Jordan, but they also led us to believe that he wasn’t that far from where he needed to be.
One thing I’ve noticed is how vocal he has become. He’s a pretty quiet kid by nature, so it’s taken an effort on his part to step up, be heard and lead the team down the field. Though he hasn’t been on point with his arm each day, Miles commended Jordan for how well he is leading the team through their workouts.
The wide receivers then broke off and worked alone with coach Billy Gonzales. He fired balls at them right after their cuts up field, and each guy was able to reel in the passes with some consistency. The lead guys of Terrance Toliver, Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle looked particularly good. Now that Shepard has caught up to the pack, the trio rarely puts a ball on the ground nor draw negative reviews from Gonzales. Freshman Kadron Boone looks like someone who’s ready to make the jump onto the field, and Gonzales is staying on him hard. He shows him some serious attention on each rep, and today was one of those afternoons where Boone was catching suggestions after each go through the drill.
Chase Clement wasn’t with the tight ends this afternoon as the group worked on routes in the red-zone. Deangelo Peterson looked the sharpest, and there’s no doubt that coach Crowton is eyeing him as someone who can provide great mismatches. He’s got a combination of size, speed and power that you don’t really see elsewhere on the offense.
The offensive line was split up into guards and tackles, one group working with coach Greg Studrawa and the other with coach Ben Wilkerson. Josh Dworaczyk looks like he’s getting back into the swing of things after his illness. Joe Barksdale is in great shape and should really provide a great anchor on the blind side. The reviews have also been really positive on Alex Hurst, who will slide into Barksdale’s old spot on the right side. The coaches called Hurst’s spring one of the best on the team.
At the right guard spot there is competition between Will Blackwell and Josh Williford, but the reps show that Blackwell – the veteran of the two – is more ready for the field. If UNC was tomorrow, I’m pretty certain the starting line wouldn’t surprise many folks. My guess would be Barksdale, Dworaczyk, Lonergan, Blackwell and Hurst. Other names to keep watching through camp are T-Bob Hebert, Matt Branch, Evan Washington and Williford, though Branch missed a few days in the first week.
The linebackers worked on footwork drills once again, and they then worked on short-yardage packages during the back-end of the session. Tahj Jones was dressed in green once more, but everyone else was dressed out. Kelvin Sheppard continues to lead the way with solid reps, showing clean lateral movement and good speed getting out of his breaks. Right now he comes off the whistle quicker than any of the guys.
Karnell Hatcher continues to run alongside Brandon Taylor and ahead of senior Jai Eugene at safety. Hatcher is more physical than Eugene, but Eugene – the former corner – has the cover skills. Craig Loston is the other name in the two-deep, and I expect all four to see action throughout the year – though Taylor appears to be the name that will stay on the field the most. On Tuesday, Chavis called Taylor one of the quarterbacks of the defense.