Summer Film Session: Big Cat drill
Watching one-on-one contests from LSU spring practices
With Rueben Randle’s sheer size and strength, it’s difficult for any defensive back (here, Derrick Bryant) to stay afloat in the Big Cat drill. Don’t think Tyrann Mathieu (7) and incoming freshman La’el Collins (green shirt, background) failed to notice. (Photo by Jay Potter)
By BEN LOVE
Tiger Rag Editor
We’ve reached another Tuesday in the summer, and that means it’s time for the next installment of TigerRag.com’s summer film sessions.
Every Tuesday from now until SEC Media Days in late-July (July 20-22, to be exact), we’ll run out a series of videos from this past spring’s LSU practice sessions.
Last week we took a look at the LSU wide receivers being put through a series of drills and catching passes from the three signal callers.
The week prior, it was time to dissect the Tiger quarterbacks during spring practice sessions.
Today, we’ll take a break from positional video breakdowns and jump right into the Big Cat drill, turning our attention to who’s pushing whom around on the Ponderosa.
Not much needs to be said to introduce this drill or the purpose behind it.
It ain’t too deep.
Basically, an offensive player is pitted against a defensive player and each is tasked with pushing the other back while staying inside the framework of some cones. The narrow lane is supposed to prevent players from being elusive as this is designed to be a head-on-head drill. It not only measures brute force and strength, but also serves as a reminder to keep the legs pumping to move a guy once contact has been initiated.
The Tigers have been running the Big Cat for a little over a year now, and it was originally Les Miles’ response to his team “not winning enough one-on-one battles,” in his own words. In the time since, the drill has led off a number of practices, sandwiched right in between stretching/warm-up time and individual drills (by position).
One last note: Miles does a pretty good job in most of these videos of calling out the combatants’ names, but for a general rule of thumb the offensive player is to the left (or bottom part of the screen) and the defender is to the right (or top part of the screen).
Check out today’s film session footage on the best of the spring’s Big Cat drills, Part 1, complete with notes and observations following each clip. For identification purposes, players’ numbers are listed within those “Notes” sections.
Video 1: Big Cat drill (3.15)
Tuesday, March 15
NOTES: This was the first time the team went through the Big Cat drill during spring practices. The players were in shells (shoulder pads and helmets), but the action didn’t disappoint. You could tell a lot of these guys were ready to start hitting. Anyway, onto the action …
1. FB J.C. Copeland (44) overpowers LB D.J. Welter (31)
2. LB Kevin Minter (46) drives through FB Connor Neighbors (43)
- Minter is one of the better Big Catters out there on the LSU team, and he shows why here. He had great initial contact, but more importantly, Minter just has such a low center of gravity.
3. RB Spencer Ware (11) pushes LB Tahj Jones (58) back a bit
- Ware had really good initial pop and fired out low, but he eventually got a little overextended and ended up slipping down to the ground after first starting his drive.
4. LB Josh Johns (39) drives RB Alfred Blue (4) back
- Blue is a taller back and here he stood up a bit too high, allowing Johns to get into his chest.
5. RB Michael Ford (42) narrowly edges out LB Lamin Barrow (57)
- This was the closest of the six running backs-on-linebackers encounters, with Ford beginning to break the deadlock a bit toward the very end.
6. RB Kenny Hilliard (27) recovers and explodes through LB Luke Muncie (52)
- Wow! This was impressive from the true freshman, who technically should’ve still been in high school at this point. Muncie originally gets the first push, knocking Hilliard back, but the Patterson product responds with sheer strength, lifting Muncie up and driving him into and then through the circle of players surrounding them.
Video 2: Big Cat drill gets chippy (3.17)
Thursday, March 17
NOTES: Onto the second day of Big Cat drills, this time on St. Patrick’s Day Thursday. And the action got chippy right off the bat. I’ll detail below, with a blow-by-blow account …
1. OL Evan Washington (70) and DL Ego Ferguson (9) more or less battle to a draw
- Washington surges ahead first and Ferguson responds late, but the aftermath is the best part. Washington inadvertently removes Ferguson’s helmet with his hand as he grips for shoulder pad placement. Ferguson doesn’t care. No. 9 keeps going with some pushing and shoving after the whistle, shouting “I’m here. I’m here. I’m here” as he and Washington are being restrained by tight end Chase Clement (88). Some fire in the bellies of two linemen LSU expects to hear more from into the future.
2. TE Chase Clement (88) is too strong for DE KeKe Mingo (49)
- Like Defensive Coordinator John Chavis yells afterward, Mingo doesn’t get a good enough base set underneath him when he lunges. As a result, the stronger Clement chunks him to the turf.
3. DE Lavar Edwards (89) uses a quick first step and overpowers TE Deangelo Peterson (19)
4. TE Nic Jacobs (84) darn near runs DE Ken Adams (94) out of the ring
- I said it during the spring, Jacobs is LSU’s run-blocking tight end of the future. If he gets more consistent catching it, look out. But, alongside Minter and Rueben Randle, Jacobs was likely the Big Cat MVP of the spring. Just a dominant effort here.
5. WR Jarrett Fobbs (5) and CB Ron Brooks (13) battle to a stalemate before Brooks pulls away at the end
Video 3: Big Cat drill Pt. 2 (3.17)
Thursday, March 17
NOTES: This video is pretty much shot directly after the one above, and it continues the trend that Fobbs-Brooks started, namely that the big guys’ turn was done and it’s on to the wide receivers and defensive backs …
1. WR Russell Shepard (10) is all over DB Ronnie Vinson (28)
- Shepard’s leg drive is pretty incredible for a player his size. After the players stand each other up immediately, Shep gets back underneath Vinson’s pad level and drives him every which way. Impressive.
2. S Craig Loston (6) gets good hand positioning and drives WR Kadron Boone (86)
- Loston is the stronger of the two, no question, but most important here is the inside hand positioning Loston gets, grabbing hold of Boone’s shoulder pads breast plate then more or less steering him. Watch at the end, after the whistle, as he tries to demonstrate that and show the younger Boone.
3. CB Tharold Simon (24) throws James Wright (82) down, but the contact-and-drive portion is sort of neglected here. Not really capturing the essence of the drill, you could say.
4. WR Rueben Randle (2) mauls S Derrick Bryant (36)
- Funny thing is Randle doesn’t even come out all that low. He just absorbs Bryant’s initial contact, then proceeds to drive him into the ground. Guy’s a beast.
5. Interesting battle between WR Armand Williams (81) and DB Sam Gibson (29)
- Gibson’s initial pop was substantial, knocking WIlliams back, but No. 81 didn’t give up and ended up with a bit of the last laugh. Neither player really locked on and sustained a long-term driving push, but the two bursts - one from each player - were impressive.
Two fullback-on-linebacker contests finished this video off …
6. FB J.C. Copeland (44) came out low on LB Lamin Barrow (57), but eventually lost some of his balance.
7. LB Ryan Baker (22) gave FB Connor Neighbors (43) a bit of the Tharold Simon treatment, slinging him to the side but not necessarily squaring him up and driving through him.
Editor Ben Love covers LSU football and men’s basketball. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.