Final Practice Before Bowl Week

Wednesday practice report, as the Tigers break for Christmas and ready to head out on Saturday

The Tigers took the field early this morning in helmets and shoulder pads for their final workout prior to breaking for Christmas.  Today was NFL day.  I'm not sure why they call it that.  Players were wearing non-uniform shorts, and about half of the players switched jerseys with someone else.  That's especially comical when someone like Jaron Baston switches jerseys with one of the smaller guys.  That makes trying to identify who's who challenging once they put their on their hats.  Andrew Jones was fully engaged in the Christmas spirit, as he sported a red union suit under his shorts and shoulder pads.

Kick-off specialist Tanner Mills has worn a red jersey throughout these practices.  He's going to "give it a shot" once they resume practices this weekend in Houston.

Staying with the kicking game. Jake Harry has worked his way into becoming an NFL prospect, and the best punter I can remember at Missouri.  I don't expect much, if any drop-off next year.  Matt Grabner's going to be a very capable replacement.  Not too many seasons ago, punters boomed away inside Devine Pavilion, and rarely hit the roof.  Now, Harry and Grabner both hit the roof on nearly every punt.

Three LBs wearing red jerseys, Josh Tatum, Luke Lambert, and Jeff Gettys, watched intently as Coach Steckel put the remaining LB corp through their paces, including extensive work on fending off the cut blocks they are sure to see against Navy.

The atmosphere today was very crisp and business like.  Players seemed to be in a hurry to get through practice and then head home for Christmas.  Josh Tatum was headed to the airport to catch a flight to California.  He's expecting to resume football activities upon his return in January.  He says he's fully recovered from the lower back surgery he underwent during the summer.  He expects to make a strong challenge for the starting WLB position in the spring.  Josh had really good things to say about his former, and soon to be current teammate, Kenronte Walker.  He said that Walker, whom he described as a "big hitter", will challenge immediately for a starting spot at safety.

The first unit offense worked against the Navy (scout) defense during 11 on 11.  Blaine Gabbert was really clicking with his receivers, although Rolandis Woodland and Wes Kemp did have drops.  With Michael Egnew's continued strong play, it appears that a serious competition is setting up for spring ball at the Z WR position.  Wes Kemp will have to improve his practice habits, and become more consistent catching the ball, if he's going to retain the starting position.  The competition at all the WR spots will benefit each of them.

Jerrell Jackson made an absolutely astounding catch in practice today.  He was running up the right sideline and glanced back over his left shoulder inside toward the QB to see the ball.  Gabbert had zinged one to the outside, and it was rapidly headed out of bounds.  With his back still to the QB, Jackson reached to his right with his right hand and snagged the ball out of the air one-handed, seemingly before he could even get his head back around, kind of a back-handed stop like a corner infielder would make.  Jackson then entertained his delighted teammates by demonstrating, in true Charlie Chapman style, that the ball was stuck to his hand, and he couldn't shake it off.  What a tremendous talent!

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