"I think practicing hard and long the first six days may have taken its toll on us in terms of today's work," Cutcliffe noted. "The contact work was not as crisp as it was yesterday, despite the fact we are still getting cool weather. We looked a little leg weary today, plus we are missing some depth in some areas with some nagging injuries.
"I think the kids worked as hard as they could, but our execution was lacking. I have said all along that this team needs as much work as possible this month, but we also have to be smart about it too. We will work in the stadium tonight (6:30) in shoulder pads and helmets. We will work a lot on the passing game and on the kicking game tonight. We need to get some players back out here that have nagging injuries."
* Injury report: DE Cory Robinson - slight hamstring pull - held out today for precautionary measures and will be held out tonight; S Tavarus Horne - aggravated knee; LB Dontae Reed - hamstring - says he should be back soon; WR Kerry Johnson - hamstring pull - will be held out tonight; WR Mario Hill - hamstring pull - will be held out tonight; DE Corvelli Haynes - groin pull - has been staying out of all team work, but is dressing out and going through some drills; CB Travis Johnson - groin pull - is dressed out but limited in drills he can do.
* The Winning Edge today was about leadership. "Why do you think we won 10 games last year?" Coach Chuck Driesbach asked the defensive players. "One of the main reasons is leadership. I've started seeing some good leadership develop on this team. You don't have to be a senior to lead. All of you can be leaders, vocally and by example. All of you have a leader in you. Utilize that skill."
* The number two offensive line had a little movement on it today. LT Tony Sanders was moved to RT in place of Marcus Cohen and number three RT Darryl Harris was moved up to number two. Cohen did get some number two reps as practice wore on, but it appears Harris, coming back from back surgery, has picked up where he left of prior to his back injury that cost him most of last season. Prior to his injury, he had impressed the coaches with his intensity. Obviously, he has come back strong and is making an impression again. That also makes a statement for Sanders, who was out most of last year due to personal problems. Apparently, he is making a move toward improvement as well. We'll keep our eye on that situation.
* Many times in these practice reports, we take for granted the starters and focus on young players, depth chart movement and injuries. To rectify that slighting, we are going to take one starting group per practice report and focus on them briefly. Today, the secondary. At left corner, Travis Johnson has become old reliable. With basically two years starting under his belt, Travis' experience shows. Despite recent groin problems, Travis is a fixture and a productive part of the secondary. This fall camp, prior to his nagging injury, the quarterbacks tested him some, but came up empty most of the time. . . At right corner, sophomore Trumaine McBride, who takes over for Von Hutchins, is a rookie starter who is quickly gaining veteran status and respect. His man-to-man coverage skills are good and he seems to be getting his technique honed for big things this year. . . At free safety, senior Eric Oliver is the "fire" of the secondary. Constantly talking, constantly keeping his motor going, constantly encouraging other defenders and constantly challenging the offense. Excellent leader who knows the defense inside and out. Still more of a downhill safety who excels in run stopping, but his coverage skills - due to experience - have improved. . . At srong safety, junior Kelvin Robinson is the most physical of the secondary players. In practice, he has passed up some big hits, but what is noticeable is that he is putting himself in position to make more of those when the games roll around. . . At whip safety, sophomore Charles Clark - like McBride - is in his first year starting. Highly intelligent player who is always in the right place at the right time. Charles has also become more physical since moving closer to the line of scrimmage. A good offseason helped with his strength and it's showing in his contact work.
* In Oklahoma drills today, the defense showed up a lot better than it did yesterday. Again, it's a drill designed for the offense to have an advantage, but the defensive players bowed their necks a little more today. LB Brian Lester, DT Michael Bozeman, DT Chris Herring, LB Rob Robertson and DT Andrew Wicker all notched "wins" in the drill for the defense. . . On the other hand, senior TE Eric Rice welcomed LB Patrick Willis to the big time with two crushing, dominant blocks. A healthy Rice will help this squad a lot.
* In 9-on-8 running game drills today, there was a lot of give-and-take. The offense owned this drill yesterday, but like the Oklahoma drills today, the defense came out swinging today. The offense would break one run for a nice game and then the defense would stuff them on the next play. TB Brandon Jacobs got into the open field on one play and ran over S Larry Kendrick, but on the next play Kendrick nailed TB Vashon Pearson at the line of scrimmage, all the way from the safety slot, for no gain. Typical of the whole drill.
* FB Lorenzo Townsend said a running game this year is more important than ever in order to give new QB Micheal Spurlock an opportunity to get his feet wet as the starter. "I have a lot of faith in Micheal. This whole team does, but it's up to us older guys to help him get started by taking some pressure off him with the running game," L.T. noted. "There is no reason we can't run the ball well this year. We got better as last year wore on, we have a lot of veterans back up front and in the backfield, and we have a lot of confidence we can move people around this year. Now we just have to do it. When we get the running game going, we think Micheal will be unstoppable at QB."
* The backup QBs - Ethan Flatt, Robert Lane and Paul Eck - all had their moments today. Flatt continues to move the team down the field when the opportunity presents itself. He just makes plays. Lane exhibited a nice touch today on a 20-yard TD pass to Frank Clayton and also moved the team in pass scale drills. Both made good reads and decisions. Eck, naturally, is struggling with his decision-making and getting a grasp of the offense, but physically he has shown a good release and good poise under fire in the opportunity period for newcomers at the end of every practice. He takes care of the ball and has a quick release. He has not disappointed.
* The second day of the Marquis McBeath shoulder watch went without a hitch. McBeath had a couple of more pretty solid hits today and said he feels fine. In controlled contact situations, which has been the case thus far in most drills, the hits have been crisp but not all-out. He has held up well in that environment and said he feels good about his shoulders when the time comes to really unload on someone.
* DT McKinley Boykin continues to make strides in his comeback from scope surgery two weeks ago. Every practice he gets a little stronger and gets a little more work. He is splitting time with Andrew Wicker at the number one slot and is still being held out of extensive work, but he's now going through portions of every contact and non-contact drill.
* TB Marvin Vaughan is caught in a numbers game behind Pearson, Jacobs and Alan Abrams, but the senior makes things happen when he gets the ball in his hands. He's quiet and goes about his job. When the rock is handed to him, he makes the most of his chances. Today, he had two nice cutback runs against the grain that drew the attention of the players and coaches.
* With Robinson and Haynes being nicked up, DE Coach Marion Hobby was working Dedrick Clark at number one right end today. Clark has been sharing number two snaps with Brandon Jenkins on the left side. Viciente DeLoach was backing up Clark today.
* Recent Ole Miss commitment Blake McAdams, a punter from Ripley, TN, was at practice today.
Practice Report: Second day of pads
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