Friday Morning Matches Starters With Rookies

Friday came early for half the Bulldog squad, as they reported for the first of the two practices Coach Dan Mullen scheduled for the second day of preseason camp. Still those who drew the morning shift made the most of it, especially the offensive side.

As he has done for the last three preseasons, Mullen is maximizing these opening days of preseason by dividing the roster for separate sessions of over 90 minutes. This gets everyone involved many more snaps than a full-team session does, most obviously a lot of freshmen who have to make their impressions on coaches as early as possible.

Also, it allowed the staff to work around some class conflicts as the second summer semester continues into next week. This resulted in a few first teamers not reporting for the morning practice, notably #1 running back LaDarius Perkins, backup Josh Robinson, and #1 cornerback Jamerson Love. Otherwise though the first offense and defense were essentially intact.

They were paired with a ‘fourth team' of freshmen, transfers, and newer walkons. Besides having more reps to themselves in their initial positions, the newcomers got to compare themselves directly to a SEC starter at their same spot. This is the best learning experience of all for most of them at this career stage.

One rookie, WR Fred Ross, didn't wait to make impressions as he led the Thursday receiving results overall. But it came at a toll apparently as the freshman spent part of Friday morning in the rehab Pit, mostly tossing the ball to a strength staffer, before watching the rest of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills without participating. No other players was rehabbing this morning.

And Friday morning was time for some veteran receivers to set the pace anyway. #1 split end Robert Johnson put in a solid session as expected, and in one-on-one matchups showed freshman CB Gabe Myles how it is done at this level by burning the new kid long. Yet fellow starter Jameon Lewis was better. Even special at times. Lewis, the slot #1, hooked up with Tyler Russell repeatedly in the pass/skel portion of drills, beating defenders for two excellent out-route grabs before hauling in a truly impressive down-the-hashes strike ahead of MLB Benardrick McKinney.

That one starting ‘backer McKinney could accept. Getting out-positioned by freshman WR De'Runnya Wilson in full-team work was harder to take, though Wilson after a slow start had some nice moves and catches at the session progressed. The surprise of the morning was another young receiver, as walk-on Michael Hodges showed the benefits of his spring practice with a strong practice against first-team coverage.

Unlike Friday when #2 QB Dak Prescott was intercepted twice and freshman Damian Williams once, there were no passes picked this morning. Not even by the first defense which admittedly is not allowed for these early days to put much pressure on Russell. The closest to an interception came when freshman Wilson got his route broken-off early by CB Justin Cox, and S Nickoe Whitley came over to get both hands on the overthrow. He couldn't hang on though. Williams had one of his passes—he only threw short stuff as the freshman has a lot of playbook to absorb still—batted down by classmate DB Brandon Wells but not intercepted.

Compared to day-one, during the 11-on-11 period there was much more emphasis to rushing the ball with Derrick Milton, Nick Griffin, and freshman Ashton Shumpert.

The second and third teams will practice starting at 6:00pm. Mullen will repeat this process Saturday for the final split-squad date.

There was no post-practice interview with Mullen, as he and the staff were meeting with SEC head of officials Steve Shaw to go over the new rules and points of emphasis for 2013. Going through the morning depth chart:

Right Tackles: Charles Siddoway, Andre Barber

Right Guards: Justin Malone, Kent Flowers

Centers: Dillon Day, Devon Desper

Left Guards: Gabe Jackson, Jamaal Clayborn

Left Tackles: Blaine Clausell, Jake Thomas

Quarterbacks: Tyler Russell, Damian Williams

Running Backs: Derrick Milton, Nick Griffin, Ashton Shumpert

Tight Ends: Malcolm Johnson, Brandon Hill, Christian Holmes

Split End (tight end side): Robert Johnson, Michael Hodges

Split End (slot side): De'Runnya Wilson, B.J. Hammond

Slot Receiver: Jameon Lewis, Javous Nicks

Defensive End: Denico Autry, Nelson Adams

Defensive Tackle: P.J. Jones, Corvell Harrison-Gay

Defensive Tackle: Kaleb Eulls, Quay Evans

Defensive End: Preston Smith, Chris Jones

Middle Linebacker: Benardrick McKinney, Kelan Chairs

Outside Linebacker: Deontae Skinner, Dezmond Harris

Outside Linebacker: Matt Wells, Mannie Lowery

Strong Safety: Jay Hughes, 30 (official roster numbers have changed)

Free Safety: Nickoe Whitley, Quadry Antoine

Cornerback: Cedric Giles, Taveze Calhoun, Gabe Myles

Cornerback: Justin Cox, Jahmere Irvin-Sills, Tolando Cleveland

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