Bad Conditions Good For Coaches

By Adam Caparell - January 24, 2008


MOBILE, Ala. - On the final day of practice, it was rainy, it was dreary and it was downright cold with the wind whipping around Ladd-Peebles Stadium Thursday and that was a good thing for North coach Lane Kiffin.

"It was really good for our guys because in case game-time (is like Thursday), guys have worked out with wet balls and bad conditions and also it's good to see the players have to deal with (the elements)," Kiffin said. "Quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, everybody."

The North, as has been the case all week, worked out in the morning when it was raining. Quarterbacks Chad Henne, Joe Flacco and John David Booty threw a few wobblers and there were plenty of dropped balls, but they managed to get through the 1:45 practice in good spirits and good standing with the Oakland coaching staff.

The South squad, which practiced in the afternoon, didn't have to deal with the rain, just the cold as temperatures dropped into the low 40's when they took the field. Many players, including those used to the warmer climate, opted for long sleeves and spandex - like Hawaii's Colt Brennan - while others - like LSU's Chevis Jackson and Tennessee State's Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie - chose sweatpants and sweatshirts instead.

Typically, those more used to the cold wore shorts and went sleeveless.

Friday, both teams will conduct hour walk-throughs before an afternoon filled with appearances and fan events. Saturday's game could feature rain and wind as the forecast two days out is calling for a 60 percent chance of showers and a high of 54.

Injury Update: Virginia Tech wide out Eddie Royal and USC tight end Fred Davis are questionable to play in Saturday's game. Royal is battling a rib injury while Davis is battling a knee injury. Davis did not practice Thursday while Royal did.

LSU wide out Early Doucet still could potentially play Saturday, but the receiver who has a bum hamstring has not won over the South coaching staff so far this week.

"He is real pretty," South coach Mike Nolan said, choosing his words carefully. "He's a skilled player like (Anquan) Boldin from Arizona. Not quite as big, but I don't know if he has that same competitive nature that Bolden has. And I was wishing for him as I was watching him. He's physically strong and gifted. He's got the talent and he's got the makings. He's got to stay healthy and if his competitive level is high he'll be a good player."

Doucet battled a groin injury for almost the entire regular season, missing five SEC games for the Tigers, but is still projected to be a first round selection.

On the other end of the spectrum, one player Nolan is very high on his Doucet's teammates, LSU running back Jacob Hester.

"I'll say this, everybody needs a guy who was a damn good player on a national championship team," Nolan said.

Hester's a projected late round selection, but Nolan cautioned about not overlooking what he could bring to the table. Nolan made a comparison between Hester and former Miami safety Ed Reed who was initially passed over until the 24th selection in the first round where the Baltimore Ravens selected him. Nolan was on the Ravens staff that year and watched as Reed developed into one of the best defensive players in the game, surpassing Oklahoma safety Roy Williams who was chosen at No. 8.

Reed, like Hester, was one of the best players on the 2001 national champion Miami team that beat Nebraska in the Rose Bowl.

"(Hester) was a key player on that national championship team and I will be shocked if he's not a damn good NFL player for that reason alone," Nolan said.

Movers and Shakers: With the weather keeping many indoors, the two practices were sparsely attended by scouts and others alike. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville did make a brief appearance in the afternoon at the South practice. Auburn has two players at the Senior Bowl: TE Cole Bennett and DB Patrick Lee.

Former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron, who was seen milling around practice Wednesday, officially joined the New Orleans Saints Thursday as the team's new defensive line coach. Orgeron met with Saints officials and coach Sean Payton here the past few days and quickly accepted the offer to return to his home state despite offers from other NFL teams.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 08:56 PM on January 24, 2008
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