Russell Shepard, coaches sink teeth into Senior Bowl practice

Associated Press photo by DAVE MARTINSouth team quarterbacks Tyler Wilson of Arkansas, left, EJ Manuel of Florida State, center, and Landry Jones of Oklahoma take direction from Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan during Senior Bowl practice Wednesday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.
Associated Press photo by DAVE MARTINSouth team quarterbacks Tyler Wilson of Arkansas, left, EJ Manuel of Florida State, center, and Landry Jones of Oklahoma take direction from Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan during Senior Bowl practice Wednesday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

Shepard, coaches, others sink their teeth into practice

MOBILE, Ala. — After a long day Wednesday, LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard was able to take a deep breath after his first Senior Bowl practice in Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Finally, Shepard, who got the call Tuesday night to play in the game as a replacement for injured Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope, had a chance to relax while taking photos with fans and signing autographs.

Earlier Wednesday, Shepard arrived in Gulfport, Miss., because his flight from his home in Houston was delayed. After a one-hour drive, he made it to Mobile with only an hour to spare before the South’s practice began.

It wasn’t all bad for Shepard, who was able to get into the playbook enough to get on the field, with a 20-minute nap squeezed in.

“The receivers coach helped me out, and I had a good feel for what they were doing,” Shepard said. “I really enjoyed it.

“I think I showed them I can catch the ball and be a consistent, every-down receiver. And I was able to show some things on special teams, too.”

Banta still learning

As a member of the Detroit Lions coaching staff, Baton Rouge native and former University High star Brad Banta is working with the South team’s linebackers this week.

Banta, who played 11 NFL seasons as a tight end and long snapper, just completed his first season as assistant linebackers coach after working the previous four years as assistant special teams coach.

“It’s good to learn all phases of the game,” Banta said of the switch to coaching linebackers. “It doesn’t hurt to know more than one thing.”

A tight end and linebacker at U-High, Banta was The Advocate’s athlete of the year in 1989.

Happy return

A year ago, former Tulane assistant Mark Hutson came to the Senior Bowl as an unemployed coach — and left the same way.

Two weeks later, however, Hutson — who spent five years at Tulane and was interim coach for the final six games of the 2011 season after Bob Toledo was fired — was hired by first-year Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen.

This week, Hutson, the Raiders’ tight ends coach, returned to Mobile with the rest of Allen’s staff to guide the North team.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Hutson, who spent 25 years coaching on the college level. “Everything I’ve heard about being in the NFL, especially about the attention to detail, is true.”

Looking for coaches

One of the many things New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has to do after returning to work Wednesday following a season-long suspension is find two coaches to fill out his staff.

Offensive line coach/running game coordinator Aaron Kromer left to become offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears, and assistant special teams coach Mike Mallory was named the Jacksonville Jaguars special teams coordinator Tuesday.

“They’re tough losses,” Payton said. “I was telling Mr. (Tom) Benson that we have more interest in our coaches. I assured him that was a good thing.”

Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. also interviewed for the Bears’ head coaching job and turned down inquiries from the Philadelphia Eagles and Jaguars about their open coordinator positions, but said this week he’s staying with Payton and will have a new contract soon.

Kiffin still going

“Retirement” isn’t in the vocabulary of former Saints defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who at age 72 was hired last week by the Dallas Cowboys to be their defensive coordinator.

“I don’t hunt. I don’t fish. I don’t bowl,” Kiffin said while making the rounds this week. “I just love coaching.

“There’s nothing better than getting up every morning and going out to do what you love to do,” he added. “In the NFL, unless you’re playing, they don’t ask how old you are.”

Advocate sportswriter
Ted Lewis contributed
to this report.