Coach Ed Orgeron called today's practice in full pads - that lasted for 2 hours and 15 minutes - "a typical Wednesday practice."
For sure, all the bases were covered as the Rebs worked every individual and team skill known to the game of football, from individual tackling to team pass rush to all special teams to working team scrimmage drills with crowd noise blaring from stereo speakers placed on the sidelines.
"We had a good practice," said Orgeron. "We are making some strides in some areas, which we need to do. I like the way the team responded to the noise - they handled it OK. I have been in some loud stadiums, like Tiger Stadium, but I understand Neyland is as loud as any of them. We have to be prepared - as much as we can be - for that."
Orgeron mentioned the frosh running backs, the team tackling and run defense as areas he's seen improvement in this week.
"I like the way Mico McSwain and Antonio Turner are progressing. They are making daily strides," he continued. "Our tackling has improved some in the drills we are running and we have worked hard on our team run defense in making the right fits and tackling better. I have seen some improvement there.
"We better improve because Gerald Riggs is a very physical, very good running back. In the overtime of the LSU game, Tennessee just gave him the ball behind that excellent offensive line and let him work. He's tough and we better be sure, physical tacklers with him."
The Rebels shifted their OL again after the experiment of Tony Bonds at center and Darryl Harris to left guard did not work the way the coaches wanted.
"We moved Darryl back to center. He just seems more comfortable there now than he was at guard, even though he did an excellent job at guard in spring drills," Orgeron explained. "We have moved Andrew Wicker up to number one left guard. He's been coming along better than the others at this point. The other three starters (RG Micahel Oher, OTs Tre' Stallings and Bobby Harris) remain the same. We're just trying to get our best people out there and trying to hit on a combination that will work. It's trial-and-error, but we hope we have hit on something."
Orgeron said the injury status of SS Jamarca Sanford, WR Mario Hill and MLB Patrick Willis is a big "we don't know" right now.
"I think Jamarca feels better and is the most likely of those three to play. I'm not sure about Mario," he said. (Willis has not practiced this week.)
Other players who have missed practicing this week are TB Brandon Jacobs, OT Reid Neely and OL Ryan Jones. . . . S B. Brown and FS Charles Clark were in Blue jerseys today signifying no contact, but they are both expected to be ready for UT.
It seems as if frosh Robert Russell and sophomore Dontae Reed are splitting time at MLB in Willis' absence. Russell is getting a few more number one reps, but Dontae is preparing like a starter as well.
The Rebs had a short period of board drills - one-on-one. "We need to be more physical up front on both sides of the ball," said DT Michael Bozeman. "Tennessee's program is built around their interior people and we have to respond to that challenge. Our guys in the trenches have to be physical with them and use good technique on every snap."
In field goal drills today, Robert Bass was 3-3, hitting from 27, 37 and 36 yards out. "I feel really good about what I'm doing in practice," said the soft-spoken Bass. "I'm confident and relaxed. I've done nothing but kick a football the last six years. It's what I do. I feel I will produce in games. I had a good day today and plan on taking that right into the games Saturday."
Wicker also feels good about his elevation to number one. "It's a day-to-day thing, but I'm going to try to hang on to it," said the big junior. "We are facing a great DL at UT. We've got to show what kind of guts we have this week and I think I bring that to the table. They are big, fast and strong, but I have experience in the SEC wars. I haven't played on the OL in the SEC much yet, but I know what kind of effort it takes and what you have to do to succeed against a program like Tennessee. I hope I bring some age and maturity to the position and can help relax the younger guys who don't have as much SEC experience as I do."
In run game drills today, the breakdown was as follows: (Ones) McSwain 5 (Russell). . . McSwain -1 (Bozeman). . . McSwain 4 (Pack). . . McSwain 10 run and fumble (Charles Clark recovery). . . (Twos) Turner 4 . . . Turner 7 (Gary Riggs). . . Turner 10 (Gary Riggs). . . Turner 15. . . (Ones) McSwain 10. . . McSwain -1 (Bozeman). . . McSwain -2 (Jamarca Sanford). . . (Twos) Turner 2 (LeRon King). . . Turner 0 (Bowers). . . Turner 1 (Bryant Thomas).
In team drills, with the crowd noise blaring, the breakdown was as follows: (Ones) Micheal Spurlock keep 8. . . Spurlock to Larry Kendrick 16. . . Turner 4 run (Mitchell). . . (Twos) McSwain 5 (reed). . . McSwain 17. . . Interception of tipped pass by Dustin Mouzon, returned for TD. . . McSwain 6. . . (Ones) Incomplete pass. . . Incomplete. . . Spurlock to Kendrick 8. . . Incomplete. . . (Twos) Lane incomplete. . . Lane to Seth Michaelson 3 (Reed). . . Lane to Milton Collins 10. . . Lane to Kendrick 6. . . (Ones) Turner 22 TD. . . Turner 5. . . (Twos) Lane keep 10. . . Mouzon pass breakup in end zone intended for Collins.
Spurlock is 99% to start against Tennessee and he's looking forward to the challenge. "We know what we are facing, but it's time to step up and turn this season around," he said. "We have to execute, convert some third downs, cut way back on penalties and get some rhythm going. We think we can."
The Rebs will practice tomorrow in shells - shoulder pads and helmets - at 3:45 p.m.
Practice Report: Wednesday
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