Though, "I'm glad I'm in the morning shift to get it out of the way already," RB LaDarius Perkins said. "I can work out later on this evening and be done with it."
Mullen had this special Saturday set up for split rosters. The first team with a couple of alternates were joined by most of the brand-new freshmen and some reserves in the morning; then the second- and third-teams taking the late shift. This did allow a first good idea of how the preseason depth chart is setting up, as well as where the freshman class of 2012 is at least beginning their careers.
Having been there himself just a year ago, WR Joe Morrow could appreciate the approach…not to mention all the extra snaps this allowed everyone. "It was fun, man. Split practice, but we banded together and had fun out there. We went hard."
Hard, yes. Always effective? Nnnnnnot really, but then that was to be expected of such comingling and contrasts in experience between players and squads. To summarize very, very generally, the first offense had a good day against their #1 defensive peers which was likely a given what with no contact supposedly allowed. The first defense knows their turn comes next week when everyone reports to the Farm for two-a-days.
As for the freshmen yes, they looked like freshmen in most cases. But also talented freshmen too, backing up the high opinions of Mullen's fourth recruiting class. And with walk-on quarterback Jamil Golden moving around and throwing to a variety of guys, including some regulars, the ball moved all morning. It was not anything like that in the evening.
The twos-on-twos and threes-on-threes proved much easier pickings by both defenses. They were aided by lack of ball control from the runners and throwers at times, too. Even in drills Mullen had reason for annoyance, such as three fumbles by RB Nick Griffin. The sophomore redeemed himself later on in team work fortunately. #2 QB Dak Prescott and walk-on Steven Swindle struggled for long stretches to first find open targets and then deliver. They did get a little more done in the final series so as to leave the field with something positive to review.
QB Tyler Russell did his part with an efficient session, maybe not as sharp as he'd hope but acceptable for this early stage. He wasn't intercepted in seven-man or eleven-man work and completed sufficient balls. He also benefitted from a lucky bounce too as a throw into traffic, battled for by WR Chad Bumphis and CB John Banks both, caromed into the hands of WR Joe Morrow in the end zone.
"I don't know what happened, I just turned my head and the ball was right there," Morrow said. "The first thing that popped in my head was, "catch." So I jumped under it and it fell in my hands."
Golden was able to find WR Sam Williams over in the right corner ahead of a crowd for a touchdown. But he later had a tipped throw picked off by S Nickoe Whitley, and both LB Benardrick McKinney and CB Cedric Jiles picked him outright once each. This didn't faze his coach at all.
"For a young freshman to come in there and never been around our system and pick it up, and understand the checks and go through the things, it was impressive to me for a good first day," coordinator Les Koenning said.
Saturday offered the first chance to see where most the new-for-fall scholarship freshmen were lining up. Not all of them went in the morning practice, as a number were saved for the evening session to keep the number balanced at several positions.
The larger portion of newcomers went in the morning, primarily on defense. Newer tackle Nick James joined spring enrollee Quay Evans to make up a pretty hefty interior twosome; while the Brown boys, Beniquez (outside) and Richie (middle) had some good showings as new linebackers. The real standouts, given the pass-dominated nature of the day, were the rookie defensive backs who had lots of snaps and chances. The quarterbacks came away openly impressed by corners Giles and Will Redmond, and Deontay Evans and Quadry Antoine had some fine moments at safetys along with walk-on Deandre Ward.
It will take real hitting for some of these fresh DBs to show all their stuff. Still if there was a ‘star' from the group it was Giles. He was able to intercept Golden once, and one snap after WR Brandon Heavens caught a ball against All-SEC corner John Banks it was Giles defending Heavens successfully. Though, later on heady veteran Williams got by Giles for the touchdown throw from Golden.
Xavier Grindle got to work with the third defense at cornerback. Scholarship freshman Ryan Brown and walk-on Torrey Dale went in the morning at defensive ends, while A.J. Jefferson reported for the afternoon along with tackles Nelson Adams and Jordan Washington.
By contrast the offense had just a few new faces for session-one. Devon Desper lined up at center and Cole Carter at right tackle. The second practice got receivers Brandon Holloway—who played in the slot behind soph Jameon Lewis--and Fred Brown on the field along with TE Gus Walley.
To Russell, the mixing and mingling of morning put some pressure on old Dogs to set an example—or just plain show off—to the younger pups. "You definitely want to do everything the right way. You want to throw the ball around good, you want the receivers to catch it, and everybody to be on hot tempo so the young guys know how to practice."
Only one injury marred the day. Very early in the morning session, cornerback-turned-safety Corey Broomfield appeared to bang a shoulder and left drills. He returned wearing a red jersey and watched in sideline safety. Curiously the quarterbacks who in the past have worn non-contact red at practices were in green, but still off-limits. Of course this officially was a no-hit day anyway with no protection other than helmets and good sense…
…but this being Bulldog football aggressiveness showed a few times with some ‘incidental' bangs and bumps either at the line of scrimmage or when defensive backs wanted to remind receivers they were present. Griffin felt it in particular, as on one sweep play MLB Ferlando Bohanna made sure he went down with a good thumping. Towards the end Griffin was tackled much more seriously, but this was when the second offense was in goal-line and three seconds on the imaginary clock. Griffin got to the right corner before S Dee Arrington hammered him, still scoring the touchdown.
It took the second offense a long time into 11-on-11 to make anything happen, before finally Prescott got some time and heaved long to WR Chris Smith who'd beaten CB Jamerson Love on the right sideline. That completion appeared to break some sort of ice as Swindle ducked the rush by Jefferson and dumped hot to RB Derrick Milton for a 25-yard gainer. Prescott almost threw it away, with CB Taveze Calhoun just missing what would have been the evening's only interception.
In hurry-up offense/defense to end the session, the 2-team scored in four plays. Smith beat Calhoun for 20 yards, WR Jameon Lewis made a tight catch over the middle; and after buying time with a rollout Prescott fired low to the goal line where WR Arceto Clark pulled it off the turf for what looked like a touchdown. The coaches wanted to run another play anyway, and that was Griffin's turn to both take his hit and get his touchdown.
The third offense didn't succeed beyond getting one first down as Swindle found WR Ricco Sanders. On fourth down and long from the 25 he tried to find Sanders again, but the coverage was there and the ball overthrown.
No changes to preseason depth charts were shown Saturday, other than reserve tackle Joey Trapp going back to guard. A position-by-position listing will be posted Monday.
Several morning-shifters had returned by then for meetings and watched the ending action. All in all it was a productive day, they said. "Today I felt like we got better in some areas," said Perkins. "But we just have to keep improving every day. To take the steps we need to take to get to Atlanta, we just need to keep improving every day."
Sunday's full-team practice is scheduled for mid-afternoon unless weather threatens, which would move everything up to around noon. Mullen will discuss the practice and review Saturday's results afterwards. All practices for the remainder of camp are closed.