LSU’s new-look defense debuts in spring; here’s why Les Miles calls the start ‘memorable’ _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- New wide receivers coach Tony Ball runs a drill at LSU's first football practice of the spring.

At a recent LSU spring football practice, a new assistant coach barked orders at his position group. His voice carried across the practice field, turning heads and drawing the attention of many.

He even ran through a drill himself.

Was it Ed Orgeron?

Nah. It was Tony Ball.

“Coach Ball is more up-tempo,” receiver Malachi Dupre said. “I don’t want to say up in your face, but just more on the field … just has a lot of energy.”

Ball, LSU’s new receivers coach, has debuted over the first week of spring practice as a colorful, loud and energetic coach — words many would use to describe Orgeron, the new defensive line coach.

Ball will make $310,000 a year at LSU, according to the LSU Board of Supervisors agenda released Monday. That’s a $50,000 raise from his base salary at Georgia, where he spent the past nine years.

LSU conducts its fifth session of a 15-practice spring Tuesday. Ball is sure to be heard and seen.

Last week during a practice, he kept a group of receivers behind for some extra work. That might become routine.

“He’s very specific on footwork,” receiver Trey Quinn said. “He has a set mindset and is going to try to get it as perfect as possible.”

During one practice, Ball went through a footwork-based cone drill himself, illustrating to his players how he wanted it run. A former small college running back, Ball zipped through the drill without hitting a cone, firing out of the last one in style.

Ball’s salary was revealed Monday, but his contract was not immediately available. The board is set to approve his salary, at least, in its next meeting Friday.

Aside from Bradley Dale Peveto and Jeff Grimes, all of LSU’s position assistants are on two-year deals, something the school began doing last year. Peveto, the special teams coordinator, and Grimes, the offensive line coach, are on three-year contracts.

Ball, 55, is being paid $65,000 less than his predecessor, Adam Henry, was set to make this year. Henry, a candidate for several other jobs this offseason, had received a $55,000 raise this year to $375,000 a year. He left for a job with the San Francisco 49ers the weekend after National Signing Day.

Ball’s salary of $310,000 is tied for the second-lowest of LSU’s nine assistants. Tight ends coach Steve Ensminger make $300,000 per year, and Corey Raymond also makes $310,000.

Thomas back — mostly

During LSU’s second spring practice last week, defensive back Dwayne Thomas was called to blitz. The image of him tearing his ACL last season popped into his mind.

“All I could remember is, ‘Last time I blitzed, I went down,’ ” he said.

So what happened when he blitzed for the first time since suffering that injury against New Mexico State last season?

“There was no issue,” he said. “Came clean. Felt normal.”

Thomas is likely to soon shed his green jersey, which signifies players with injury, he said. For now, he appears to be playing a similar position as he did before last year’s injury — the primary nickelback on defense. The Tigers played in the nickel — using five defensive backs — a majority of the time under former defensive coordinator John Chavis.

That’s not likely to change, Thomas said.

“Way we run defense now, pretty sure it will be like that the entire game almost, unless we’re playing someone like Arkansas that’s going to stack the box all night,” the junior said. “I’m looking for a lot of action.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.