It was a good day. It was a very good day.
OK, that was mostly because Coach Larry Porter cut the afternoon practice about 30 minutes short to get the guys some much-needed rest before tomorrow's closed scrimmage. He said after practice that he felt like the team was continuing to fight and not giving in to fatigue so he thought it would be good to cut things a little short.
"I thought this morning was very productive and this afternoon was very competitive," said Porter. "I think the guys are putting themselves in position tomorrow to have a very competitive scrimmage so I am excited about that."
Junior receiver Marcus Rucker looked like he hadn't missed a beat at practice, making several nice grabs today. There are several young players making a case for early playing time. Some of the players on offense that Coach Porter has continued to tout are running backs Artaves Gibson and Joe Price. With Jerrell Rhodes out right now, those two guys are getting plenty of reps. Today, Coach Porter also talked a bit about defensive backs Bakari Hollier and Bobby McCain.
"There are a few battles going on," explained Porter. "We have to settle this quarterback position. Our young running backs are making a very strong case for early playing time and I think they will receive that. There are some young guys in our receiving corps that are in a position to help us create a strong two-deep as well. You look at Bakari Hollier and Bobby McCain; they have done a good job of stating their case. I think those are two tremendously talented young men. There are some areas that I see our two-deep being strengthened coming out of this scrimmage and I am excited to see what is going to happen."
Coach Porter also praised the offensive line, which has been a work-in-progress as senior Ron Leary is the only returning lineman with a wealth of experience in the starting lineup. He has started 24 of his 32 career games, and is one of only two Tigers with 20 or more starts under his belt entering the 2011 season opener against Mississippi State. The other is Tommy Walker, who has made 20 starts on the O-line over the last two years, but has moved back to the defensive line for his senior season. The only other Tiger with starts on the offensive line is Michael Antonescu, who has started five of 24 career games. A couple of linemen who may see starts early are A.J. Antonescu and Chris Shuetz, who are battling each other at center, as well as sophomore transfer Nick Chartain, former defensive lineman D'Angelo McCray and JuCo transfer Jordan Devey.
"I like the progress of the offensive line," said Porter. "I like the toughness and the physical element that they bring to practice every single day. They are starting to play together as a unit."
And the day would not be complete without an update on the quarterback race that appears to be between Andy Summerlin and Taylor Reed, although Porter has also said several times that packages are being put together for fifth-year senior transfer Skylar Jones.
"Andy is doing a good job of managing our offense and his decision-making," explained Porter. "His productivity is above the other two. But I keep telling everyone that Taylor Reed is growing. Every day, he does something that strikes you and lets you know he is going to be a tremendous football player. So, although Andy is making a lot of progress in terms of running our offense, I don't think Taylor is going to give in and stop fighting. I am always evaluating our team and trying to find ways to make us better."