Based on the comments made by head coach Gene Chizik, Wednesday's practice could have gone better.
"I didn't feel completely good about the tempo and the energy as compared with some of the previous days," Chizik said. "I thought we did get some learning, some teaching in today, but I wish the energy and the level of practice had been a little bit higher."
Chizik wants to see improvement by the time spring practice wraps up Monday.
"I think we've made a lot of strides, but we've got a long way to go," Chizik said. "We'll finish up the next three practices hopefully with more energy than we did today. But we did do some good things. I think we did make some strides in some areas in terms of installation and getting some new things in, so hopefully energy-wise and tempo-wise we can have a little bit better practice."
One of those practices is Saturday's A-Day game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Since the numbers are so low this spring with less than 50 scholarship athletes on the current roster, the Tigers won't be able to have a more traditional format to the game.
"It's going to be similar to our first year here where it's more offense versus defense and a scoring system that we use when we have our own scrimmages," Chizik said. "We really don't have a choice to cross over and have teams right now."
According to the head coach, the way players perform this Saturday doesn't necessarily determine their spot on the depth chart.
"Typically, historically, our spring game is going to be another scrimmage," Chizik said. "There's going to be a lot of base offense, a lot of base defense. Fundamentals of the game is really what we're looking for here. Blocking and tackling and angles of blocks and angles of tackles. So it's going to be more of an evaluation tool in that regard than anything else. But it would be viewed upon by us as no different than any other practice."
"We're going to mix both guys in with both groups and it will be evenly split in terms of who goes with what group, at least to the best of our ability," Chizik said. "Sometimes that's dictated by the number of plays in the drive, but we'll really try to balance it up."
Even though coaches know what returning experienced players like defensive end Nosa Eguae, tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen and running back Onterio McCalebb are capable of, they will still see plenty of action this Saturday.
"They're going to play, and we'll play that by ear," Chizik said. "Our whole team's so young, nobody is exempt from reps. Just because at every position on our football team right now, we've got a long way to go."
*** Redshirt freshman Chad Slade has moved around on the offensive line this spring, but has mostly been working at left tackle recently. Ahead of him at the position is senior A.J. Greene. Slade was a left tackle at Moody (Ala.) High School.
*** Sophomore Jake Holland will be manning the starting middle linebacker duties this year after veteran Josh Bynes was lost to graduation. Throughout the spring, Holland said he has been working on his vision and pre-snap awareness as well as being a more physical player. With the middle linebacker essentially being the leader of the offense, Holland has been trying to improve in another area also.
"Getting out there and just trying to take over that leadership role that Josh was so good at," Holland said. "I definitely learned from a pretty good veteran who had been there for a long time. Now it's my turn to take over and I feel like I can do a pretty good job at it."
*** Holland said he weighs about 240 pounds now.
*** Holland's father, Jeff, has had the opportunity to attend several practices this spring. Jake said he loves that his dad is able to watch him play.
"I call him every day after practice and he asks me how I did and I always tell him what I did wrong, what I did right, what I'm working on for the next day," Holland said. "He works down here sometimes, so he'll try to come down and watch practice. He'll definitely give me pointers, what I need to do better. It's a really close relationship and it helps me a lot to have my father so close to me and be a good mentor."
*** Senior Eltoro Freeman and redshirt freshman Jacob Westrich are working behind Holland at MLB. First-team outside linebackers are Daren Bates and Jonathan Evans.
*** Earlier in the week, Chizik talked about how the time between the new kicker Cody Parkey, new holders Chandler Brooks and Ryan White and snapper Josh Harris is off. To correct it, Chizik said they will have to put in work on their own before fall camp.
"They're going to have to call each other up, get out there and work through the process of snap, hold, kick, if you're talking about extra points and field goals and snap, kick if you're talking about punting," Chizik said. "That's one of the huge things for our specialists to do because they have to do it on their own. They have to work on their own relentlessly during the summer for timing, for confidence. That's going to be a big part of what they're going to need to do."
*** Sophomore punter Steven Clark is trying to become more consistent this spring. Then-senior Ryan Shoemaker made the majority of the punts in 2010 while Clark earned experience five games by midseason. This year, Clark is getting some competition from Brooks. Brooks is listed as a kicker.
"He's still a kicker," Clark said. "He does about everything."
Clark averaged 34.9 yards on nine punts last year.
*** Defensive line coach Mike Pelton described backup defensive ends Justin Delaine and Joel Bonomolo as "works in progress."
"The thing with those guys is they're really raw when it comes to their technique," Pelton said. "The effort is there, it's just they haven't done it in a structured environment. Justin Delaine is a guy that's probably very intriguing to me, because he's so big and he runs so fast. And Joel, I refer to Joel as a power line on the ground: He has a lot of energy that's going everywhere. I'm just trying to get him to funnel that energy in one direction and just buy into what we're teaching him on defense. He's one of those guys making progress this spring. And Joel, from being that guy, now he's starting to understand what we're trying to do on defense. Even those guys have made strides this spring.
"But I don't want to say progress as us being good, because we're nowhere close to where we need to be."
*** The Tigers' next practice will be Friday at 9 a.m. Saturday's A-Day game is set for 2 p.m. and will be televised on CSS.