Friday was scheduled to be the first day of full pads and full contact, but Coach Houston Nutt had second thoughts and delayed "real football" until Saturday's 4:30 p.m. scrimmage, on the practice fields and open to the public.
"We've been getting enough contact in shoulder pads and helmets," said Nutt. "We just moved the full contact back a day and will get after it tomorrow."
Friday's practice was a good one, except one injury blow.
Sophomore DT Justin Smith broke his foot in inside drills, as Nutt explains.
"We had a real good day until we found out Justin broke his foot doing a one-on-one pass rush drill. He got in an awkward position and broke the fifth metatarsal. I hope we get him back around the South Carolina game, but if not, he did not redshirt last year, but we'd really like him back for this year. That injury usually takes seven or eight weeks. We'll see.
"It's a shame because he was having an excellent camp. He had gotten stronger and was running well. I hate it for him. We have decent depth there with Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott, Jerrell Powe and LaMark Armour, but we need a fifth. We may move Craig Drummond inside, but I don't know yet. We'll talk about it."
On another note, DE Greg Hardy missed the first half or so of practice to attend a promotion ceremony for his mother who was elevated to detective status with the Memphis Police Department.
"He had our permission and didn't miss much," said Nutt.
On to Friday's practice. . .
"I thought we executed very well on offense today. Jevan Snead threw the ball very well," Houston continued. "Dexter McCluster and Shay Hodge are on the top of their game. Their timing is excellent. If we can keep those guys going and healthy, they can be special for us. They have a real feel for each other."
Houston was asked if any of the frosh wideouts had separated themselves from the pack.
"Pat Patterson makes a play a day that makes you do a double take," Nutt said. "You see someone going up to get the ball and you assume it's him. He's pretty good."
Nutt said the scrimmage focus will be on the young players. It is an important day for them to earn some standing on the team's depth chart.
"We want to see what they can do - a lot of them. We already know what our veterans can do, so we've been giving a lot of reps to our young guys. That will continue tomorrow. We will keep our vets in shape and going, and as we get closer to game time they will get more and more, but I really want to see where these freshmen fit in and tomorrow's the proving ground for them," he noted. "It's a big day for Charles Sawyer, D.T. Shackelford, Pat, Joel Kight, Terrell Grant, Korvic Neat, all of them."
The scrimmage, Nutt said, will be "70-75 plays" in length. Stretch is at 4:30 p.m.
Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Kent Austin was asked to assess the first few fall practices on his side of the ball.
"The last two days, Jevan has thrown the ball well. The last two days, we have done some good things on offense, particularly in protecting the ball," Austin began. "We have not thrown an interception in two days after having several the first three days. If we protect the football, we have a chance because we are getting a little better up front.
"I think our tempo is better as well. If we can sustain that tempo throughout camp, we will be fine."
The coaches have been mixing in a lot of young receivers and running backs trying to get a feel for them. Austin was asked if that has affected Snead while trying to learn the new receivers and work out the timing with them.
"You have to learn your receivers, but that's part of it. We challenged those young guys to get ready and Jevan to learn them. We have plenty of time to get that down," Austin noted. "Those young guys are talented, they pick things up quickly and they compete. That's the main thing I like. They give great effort, they attack the football, they command their space and they have great body control and good hands. I'm pleased with all of them."
Austin, like Nutt, praised McCluster.
"We want the ball in his hands as much as possible. He's a great player, wonderful to coach and a terrific human being," Austin noted. "The thing about him is that he rarely does anything wrong, even when we put in something new on the first rep. He's what you want."
In the last two days, Nutt has indicated Nathan Stanley has moved slightly ahead of Billy Tapp for number two quarterback.
"I agree that Nathan is ahead, but he needs to keep improving if he is going to stay number two," Austin added. "He has to show us he can get better tomorrow than he was today and every day. We have total confidence in Billy. He understands the offense, he makes great decisions and he can make plays. We are not afraid to go to Billy if we need to."
Austin also assessed frosh Raymond Cotton.
"The guy we recruited is here. He's still learning, but when he gets something and just starts playing, he has a lot of talent, a lot of talent," Kent stated. "He has a big league arm."
* In the injury department, besides DT Justin Smith's foot, OLB LaKenwic Haynes (heart monitor) and OLB Lamar Brumfield (hamstring) did not practice today. No definite time on their return, but it should be "soon."
* Rishaw Johnson's demotion due to breaking team rules still stands and senior Brandon Green is still the number one right guard. Rishaw is practicing, but with the third team for the time being.
* PK Josh Shene had an uncharacteristic day, missing two of three field goal attempts from 42 yards. Not like Josh at all. Senior Justin Sparks is the placement holder.
* In the punting department, Sparks averaged 42 yards a kick with good hang time in three attempts. Freshman Tyler Campbell averaged 56 yards a kick, but his hang time was not as good today. His kicks were on more of a line.
* As we noted yesterday, Marshay Green and Dexter are the top punt returners, but frosh Jesse Grandy and Korvic Neat are being groomed there for the future. Grandy looks very comfortable fielding punts. Neat fights it a little, but it's nothing he can't overcome with work.
* Freshman PK Andrew Ritter has not kicked off outside in practice yet, but when the kickers leave practice and head to work on their own, word is he is consistently kicking into the end zone and at times beyond the back end zone hash.
* It was cool in passing drills to see the four-wide set of Pat Patterson, Terrell Grant, both out wide, and Grandy and Ja'Mes Logan in the slots at one time. We were looking at the future and maybe some of the "now."
* Another interesting match was RB Rodney Scott and OLB Joel Kight - two fireplug freshmen - going after each other in pass protection drills. Scott held his own initially with a good first thump, but Kight would usually find his mark in the long run. Good contact, two gritty players who like to mix it up.
* Senior TB Cordera Eason showed one reason why he is valuable to the offense in pass protection drills. Two times he went against OLB Patrick Trahan, a terrific pass rusher, and both times Eason won the battle. Eason is the best of the backs at pass pro.
* In middle running drills, the coaches continued to give the young backs most of the reps and they continued to impress. When the OL is zone blocking, Scott makes quick, effective cuts off the OL wall that is formed and finds daylight quickly. Impressive young player.
* Also in middle drills, Trahan surfaced as a force, three times delivering loud hits to RBs near the line of scrimmage. Patrick reads plays quickly, arrives quickly and usually isn't in a very good mood.
* Yesterday, frosh MLB D.T. Shackelford got a bunch of number two reps. Friday, RS frosh Jason Jones was back with the second team at MLB.
* In pass skelly, the first two passes Snead threw were 25-yard TDs, one to McCluster and one to Hodge. Perfect tosses to fairly well-covered receivers.
Friday Practice Report
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