The story last week was quarterback Brandon Allen's shoulder injury and his ability to return to practice in secrecy on Wednesday. But there was another key Arkansas player who went down in that practice that went under the radar, too.
Wide receiver Javontee Herndon, Allen's favorite target on the season with 14 catches and four touchdowns, went down with an ankle injury.
"We didn't know if we would have him," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said Tuesday. "But he fought through it. He's been pretty steady all year. We have high expectations for Javontee, but I think he holds himself to even higher expectations."
Herndon has been the top playmaker for the Hogs. The Jacksonville, Fla., native is excited to be going home to play against Florida on Saturday night. He said he's glad he has company from the Sunshine State on his side against the Gators.
"For a couple of years, I was the only Florida guy on our team," Herndon said. "Now we've got quite a few."
Running back Alex Collins is listed as co-starter along with Jonathan Williams. Denver Kirkland will be making his second straight start at right guard. Collins and Kirkland are from South Florida, along with redshirts De'Andre Coley and Ke'Tyrus Marks.
"Those guys have a bounce in their step this week," Allen said. "You know this is a big game for them."
Herndon doesn't hide it.
"It's great excitement for me," Herndon said. "It's great to have those other Florida boys along with me. It's a big game for all of us."
Wide receiver coach Michael Smith said the Hogs have leaned on Herndon since the new staff arrived in January.
"He's important in our meeting room," Smith said. "He's smart. He knows a lot about the position. He's talented, too. He's tough and he's going to fight through stuff like he did last week. He has the mindset that he's got his chance now and he's not going to miss any games after waiting behind guys the last three seasons."
It will be a difficult challenge for Herndon and the Arkansas offense. Florida leads the nation in several defensive categories. The Gators have been tough against the run. But Chaney said it's difficult to see any weaknesses.
"I generally grade a team on how physical they play on the three levels of play, the front, the linebackers and the back end," Chaney said. "They rank very high in all three levels. All three levels play physical. Coach (Will) Muschamp has a very good group and it's a formidable challenge."
Arkansas has not won at The Swamp and is only 1-8 with the only victory coming in the 1982 Bluebonnet Bowl before the Hogs joined the SEC. Chaney said he's not won in The Swamp in his coaching career.
"I'm 0-3 there," Chaney said. "I went twice with Tennessee and there was a game there when I was with Fullerton that was 65-0. I think it was Emmitt Smith's first game. He made 700 yards in the third quarter. It was a bad experience, but all my experiences there have been bad.
"Having said that, our guys are excited to go there. I know my way around. They have good hot dogs in the press box."
Smith said the Gators play a lot of press coverage on the outside.
"They play everything well on defense," Smith said. "We've worked a lot on press this week. Our guys will have to step up to the challenge. They are going to play man on the outside and they will play it well."
Line coach Sam Pittman said he sees three different fronts from the Florida front.
"They play an even where they cover the guards, an odd where they are uncovered and then they'll shade the center with the nose tackle with another look," Pittman said. "The thing about it, they play them all well. I've seen a lot of good Florida fronts and this is one of the better ones. They have very good players there.
"If you cover the guards, then you might be able to pull the center against that front. But they have the ability to cover our center, too. So they can do what they want in that regard."
Chaney said the Hogs had a solid practice Tuesday in preparation for the Gators. Head coach Bret Bielema, as he did before the Rutgers game, played loud noise through the loud speakers to simulate the road crowd in practice.
Asked what was coming through the speakers, Chaney said, "What? I can't hear. I was too close to those speakers."
Chaney, who said Allen still has a tender shoulder, said the road trip has the Hogs "energized and excited. We'll see if we can rise to the challenge. We'll see if we can rise to the level of that kind of defense, but we'll have to do it before Saturday. We have to button it down every day in practice. You win a game like this with the way you practice."
Freshman running back and kick returner Korliss Marshall looks forward to the challenge. The Osceola product got one carry last week after moving to offense after working at safety through the first two games with the possibility of a redshirt. He also was effective in kickoff returns. He said an early hit from the backside welcomed him to the SEC.
"Credit to Coach (Ben) Herbert, I bounced off of that one," Marshall said. "I was fine after that. I will say that the speed of the SEC is very fast. You see it on TV and you think it's fast, but it's faster when you get out there.
"I was open to switching to offense. I wasn't going to turn down a chance to play. I didn't have any butterflies once I was out there. I just said, let's go get it. I felt pretty good."
Bielema said the package for Marshall will expand. Marshall said, "I don't know, but hopefully so."
Marshall said he played at 188 in high school, but is up to 205 with a goal of 215 before the year is done. He isn't sure he wants to stay at running back. He envisions himself as a safety at the next level.
"I'd say back to safety sometime," he said. "Why? I'd say because of the life expectancy of an NFL running back. I want to be around for awhile."
Tuesday Grid Update, 10/1
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