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Practices #13 & 14, Aug. 17, 2011

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The second of three two-a-day sessions for this week had the Tigers on the turf field for practices 13 and 14 because of light rain showers that rolled in. It rained for the first few periods of the morning practice, but the rain also brought some cooler temps. That was, until things heated up for the afternoon practice.

Coach Larry Porter was more pleased with the afternoon workout.

"I thought this afternoon's practice was better in terms of focus, attention to detail, discipline and intensity," said Porter. "We got a lot more done today. In certain situations I thought guys were really clued in and focused, and as a result it was very competitive."

"I like where we are defensively," explained Porter. "We have to continue to build depth in certain areas and get a couple of bodies back out there, but I like where we are. In today's second practice, I thought we did some good things offensively. We have to continue to gain progress with our quarterbacks. I am not ready to say that I am happy with where we are because we have work to get done. We have to have consistency for our offense to be productive overall."

In addition to the cooler temps, another positive on the day was that receiver Marcus Rucker was back in the mix after being sidelined with an injury. Rucker is the Tigers' leading returning offensive threat this season. He enters the 2011 season on a 12-game receiving streak after leading the Tigers in 2010 with 41 catches for 704 yards and eight touchdowns. The next-leading returning offensive scorer, running back Jerrell Rhodes, scored 12 points as a true freshman last season.

Coach Porter had an interesting take on Rucker's absence and why it may have actually helped the growth of the quarterbacks.

"Marcus is a tremendous player, but it has probably helped us out some with him being gone because it has forced our quarterbacks to go through our progression and not lean on him so much to make plays for us," said Porter. "As a result, they have grown. You can see our offense starting to get in sync and in rhythm, which is what we need. Yes, we missed him, but it has helped with us getting him back and still staying in sync with distributing the ball, and we can continue to build and go forward."

Kicker Paulo Henriques continues to showcase his leg strength during camp. He kicked a 52 and 50 yarder in practice today, and Porter had said earlier in the week that he plans to try him from 55 yards out. Henriques led the Tigers in scoring with 59 points in his first season booting field goals and PATs. His kickoffs have consistently been deep during camp also. With Henriques stronger; and punter Tom Hornsey continuing where he left off, the Tiger special teams unit should be an advantage. The key component left to fill are the return specialists, and Porter has said repeatedly in training camp that he feels he has a stable of talented and speedy players to fill those roles.

Coach Porter also spoke highly of freshman running back Artaves Gibson, saying that he had two good practices today and was starting to settle in and get some things done. He also felt like Gibson was gaining confidence through these practices.

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