While the Tigers try to keep pace with the rest of the SEC, that's only going to improve from last year, there's no time to waste. And to their credit, according to Ed Orgeron, they came ready to work on Sunday, focused with better execution than you usually see on day one of spring practice, especially at quarterback.
"You can tell today was a high pressure situation for all three of them," says Orgeron. "Some of them did better than others. You can tell the competition was on. You can tell when a guy makes a big play, the others want to step up."
That part of the offense has to do just that, step up, because the usually rock solid and reliable running game that they've been used to over the last decade may not be the same, at least to start the year. Nick Brossette is currently taking first team reps, but there's no one that's earned a definitive starting role just yet.
"It's going to force us to throw the football and be more creative on offense and maybe give them the ball out of the backfield with guys who catch out of the backfield," says Orgeron. "Until we find a feature back, the offense will not be featured with our running back. We can throw the football a lot better, and I expect us to do that."
Defensively, it's a roster that's stacked along the front seven. With the combination of experience, leadership and talent, big things are expected from that unit.
"We're more athletic right now and quicker," says Orgeron, whose specialty is working with the defensive line. "A guy that showed a lot of promise today is Tyler Shelvin. He's still a little heavy, but he made some plays. He's doing better and in great shape. Ed Alexander is not practicing right now. He may practice toward the end of the spring. Obviously, he'll be starting at nose tackle and backed up by Tyler, unless someone beats him out."
But while they take advantage of the depth up front, they're a bit thinner at defensive back, especially corner. Greedy Williams leads the pack, but behind him, they'll be relying on names like Jontre Kirklin, with limited playing experience, and Kary Vincent, who played more in the nickel than outside last year. And when summer comes around, one of their 2018 commits will already be in the mix as a possible starter.
"Obviously, we have Kelvin Joseph coming in, and we're going to give him a chance to start at cornerback also," says Orgeron. "When it comes down to the season, we're going to be fine at that position. We're not where we want to be now, but when it comes down to the season, Dave's going to find out what those guys do best. We may play different coverages with those guys, not the same coverage we play with Greedy, and do what they do best with their skill set."
The Tigers' spring game is scheduled for April 21.
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