BY RYAN BLACK | email@example.com
The fifth practice of the fall marked the first time the Tigers had on full pads, finally giving players the chance to take part in contact drills. But it didn’t last for long, as head coach Gus Malzahn made the decision to end practice early.
No need to get players too banged up with the first scrimmage of the fall set to take place on Wednesday, after all.
“We just want to make sure everybody gets to the scrimmage somewhat fresh and has a chance to mentally prepare because it will be a big scrimmage for us,” Malzahn said. “Not only for players, but (for) the coaches evaluating them.”
Jay Prosch couldn’t want to get back inside Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time since the A-Day game.
“Really just looking for the plays, people getting the plays right, lining up right, being fast and execution, obviously,” he said. “That’s what getting everybody working together as one unit. That’s what I’m looking for mostly and hopefully we can do that.”
The senior was also pleased with the Tuesday’s practice, since the burly fullback never shies away from an opportunity show off his physicality.
“Finally able to hit somebody instead of using your hands and slowing down before contact,” he said. “So it was nice.”
Fellow senior Craig Sanders is equally anxious for the scrimmage to arrive. The defensive end said the coaching staff told them to treat it like the first game of the NFL preseason.
“During the scrimmages we have to show out because they’ll start evaluating us,” he said. “That will determine who is going to be on the scout team and who is not going to be on the scout team.”
Malzahn said the format for the scrimmage will involve only the most basic schemes offensive and defensively.
“The main thing is to evaluate our players and try to put them in different situations,” he said. “Really, (just) try to get on the field to make plays.”
Malzahn continues stonewalling on quarterbacks
In what has become routine since fall camp opened, Malzahn talked only in generalities about the quarterback race. In fact, he refused to even address any of the four candidates for the job by name. But Malzahn did say “the two new guys” — junior college transfer Nick Marshall and true freshman Jeremy Johnson — are starting to get more comfortable with the offense.
“You can tell, as far as the procedures pre-play and I think they’re getting a better understanding,” he said. “We’re putting our installs in, so there’s a lot going on.”
Marshall did make one mistake during the portion of practice open to reporters. While working on handoff drills with Cameron Artis-Payne, Marshall mishandled the exchange and fumbled the ball away.
Malzahn didn’t make much of it, though.
“As a coach you make sure, no matter what it is, that ball security is very important to us and it starts with the quarterback,” Malzahn said. “He just got here. He’s learning the expectations and everything that goes with that.”
When asked how much closer the coaching staff is to naming a favorite, Malzahn said the team continues to stay “open-minded.”
“There’s some ups and downs and stuff like that,” he said. “One guy plays better each practice than the other, but I think they are all four solid quarterbacks.”
And it should go without saying how important the scrimmage will be when the coaching staff begins to mold the positional depth chart. Regardless, Malzahn said Marshall, Johnson, Jonathan Wallace and Kiehl Frazier have been reminded of the scrimmage’s significance.
“I really believe they’ll be ready,” Malzahn said. “There’s nothing better to evaluate a quarterback than a scrimmage situation with live bullets coming and everything that goes with that. Some people find a way to raise their level and some people get a little nervous.”
Second-team offensive line mixes up rotation
Jordan Diamond has been practicing at right guard with the second-team offensive line since the beginning of fall camp. But Will Adams was in his place at Tuesday’s practice.
Malzahn said it was just a matter of rotating players into different personnel groupings.
“We try to give them opportunity with different groups and all that until you get to the scrimmages,” he said. “(Then) things will start taking care of themselves, but right now we’re just trying to give them some opportunities.”
Malzahn confirmed that safety Demetruce McNeal missed his fifth practice of the fall and 10th in a row dating back to the spring, still recovering from a minor surgical procedure caused by an infection. Malzahn expects the senior to be back at practice “in the next few days.” … After Ricky Parks was dismissed last week, Prosch said Gage Batten has been getting the lion’s share of reps behind him at H-back. “He came over from linebacker, so he’s been adjusting,” Prosch said. “He’s never blocked before in his entire life so he’s been adjusting to that but he’s done a really good job. (He’s) finally starting to feel it out and get a good hang of it.”