In an afternoon scrimmage that went over 100 plays and focused primarily on red-zone work, the blend between veteran and inexperienced names was just what the doctor ordered.
While Mike Ford, Alfred Blue and Spencer Ware all had touches, it was upperclassmen Richard Murphy and Stevan Ridley who carried the ball for the afternoon’s three rushing touchdowns. Ridley rushed for 31 yards and a score on eight touches, while Murphy finished the day with a team-high 61 yards and two scores on just six touches.
Through the air it was senior wide receiver Terrance Toliver who had the headline day, pulling in three catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Showing off his red-zone prowess, tight end Deangelo Peterson hauled in two scores behind three catches for 49 yards. Of the freshmen names, it was a three-catch day by Kadron Boone that separated him from the pack.
“It was an offensive day,” said head coach Les Miles. “The quarterbacks played well and hit passes, and guys caught passes. I felt like Jordan made all the right checks. We enjoyed the fact that the offense made improvement. I kind of expected them to answer.”
While Jakhari Gore’s touches out of the backfield saw him break a big run, it was a special teams play from the Miami native that has Miles anxious to find out more about his 2010 signing class.
“Gore returned a kickoff pretty significantly,” he said. “The special teams piece I can’t wait to see. There was an opportunity for us to have a great evaluation on that class. We had an entire freshmen kickoff coverage unit against our first kickoff return team. I’m sure there will be guys to surface from there that end up playing a lot of special teams.”
While Ware has been given touches at running back in each of the team’s two scrimmages, Miles said that the Ohio native was being tried out at quarterback – his position in high school - during the opening stretch of camp.
“We are giving him some looks in practice and he looks pretty good, but he will play a limited role at quarterback” he said. “If something beyond Lee and Jefferson would happen, it would be TC McCartney and Barrett Bailey.”
Defensively the day belonged to Craig Loston, a redshirt freshman looking to not just earn his way onto the field but also win the starting job over Jai Eugene and Karnell Hatcher.
“Loston played very well,” said Miles of his former five-star recruit, who finished the day with 6.5 tackles, a sack and an interception. “Ken Adams and KeKe Mingo were also in on a couple of tackles for losses. The defense played well. It was a physical, physical scrimmage.”
The physicality didn’t come without a price.
Sophomore defensive tackle Josh Downs was carted off the field after he suffered an unspecified injury. Miles said that given the amount of time Downs is out, one option to fill the void in the two-deep would be moving freshman defensive end Ego Ferguson inside.
Neither cornerback Morris Claiborne or safety Karnell Hatcher dressed out. Ron Brooks replaced Claiborne on the first-team. Miles said that Hatcher, who ran with the starters at safety through much of the early camp sessions, will remain out for at least a couple of more weeks.
In hopes of finding the most efficient replacement for the injured Ryan Baker at linebacker, the afternoon scrimmage saw the coaches mix in a slew of young names.
“We have looked at a lot of guys, including some of these freshmen,” Miles said. “Tahj Jones, Luke Muncie and Justin Maclin, then certainly (Kevin) Minter, (Kelvin) Sheppard and Stefoin Francois. What are the best combinations?
The Tigers will take Friday off before returning to two-a-day practices on Saturday.
Richard Murphy 6 att., 61 yards, 2 TDs
Michael Ford 7 att., 52 yards
Stevan Ridley 8 att., 32 yards, 1 TD
Lee and Jefferson combined for 22-of-40 for 275 yards, 5 TDs
Terrence Toliver 3 rec., 93 yards, 2 TDs
Deangelo Peterson 3 rec., 49 yards, 2 TDs
Mitch Joseph 3 rec., 32 yards,
Kadron Boone 3 rec., 24 yards
Rueben Randle 2 rec., 7 yards, 1 TD
Craig Loston 6.5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 int.
Ken Adams 3.5 tackles, 2 TFL
Barkevious Mingo 3 tackles
Lavar Edwards 2 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack
Michael Brockers 3 tackles, 1 TFL
Josh Jasper 5-of-7 (made 32, 36, 37, 39, 48)