Thursday Practice Report, 8/16

Depth starting to show up at middle linebacker and in the secondary as Hogs finish day with lengthy scrimmage matching starters.

Arkansas buckled down to scrimmage for 76 plays Thursday afternoon in a session that matched the starters from both sides of the ball.

Nutt wanted "good on good" for over an hour to wrap up the day, and got his wish.

"We hit, but we didn't tackle to the ground," Nutt said. "You can get a lot accomplished that way. We didn't wear knee pads, but had on the rest of the pads. When you ar in shorts like that, you send the message that we don't want to tackle to the ground, and we got a lot out of it.

"The best part was that we didn't have the ball laying on the ground. No fumbles. There were a lot of missed assignments. We were a little sloppy and sluggish, but there was a lot of good, too. At this point, everyone is tired from the grind of two-a-days."

The Hogs continued to look at Kenny Sandlin at first team center with Jim Peters taking Sandlin's usual slot at right guard. Josh Melton, who sustained an elbow injury Wednesday in middle drills, was also worked into the scrimmage.

"We are still uncertain at center," line coach Mike Markuson said. "It may be Josh. It may be Kenny Sandlin. It might be Dan Doughty. We are looking at several things there."

The best news of the day was on the injury front. There were none in either practice.
And, many of the walking wounded were practicing in preparation for what may be a nice hitting session this afternoon.

In the morning, Melton had a bruised elbow covered with a wide forearm pad after taking a blow directly on the point of the bone yesterday in the middle drill. He practiced without problems, and stayed after to take some shotgun snaps with Kenny Sandlin and Dan Doughty, the other centers.

A doctor at practice who examined Melton just after the injury ordered the X-ray after discovering something that might have been a fracture. Melton said he was reluctant to leave practice, but did so at the urging of doctors and trainers. X-rays were negative.

"The doctors felt something they didn't like, so I did what they wanted," Melton said.

Ahmad "Batman" Carroll practiced without problems after injuring his groin Wednesday morning, then sitting out the afternoon workout. He has some soreness, but will be ready to go this afternoon.

Shawn Andrews was back on the field, too. He missed two workouts with an ankle sprain, but had a fine afternoon practice yesterday and was nearer to full speed this morning.

After heavy overnight rains left the practice field soaked, Houston Nutt broke his trend by taking the Hogs inside to Walker Pavilion on Thursday morning.

"We were just working on correcting some alignments and really weren't going to do any heavy stuff, so the turf was fine inside for that," Nutt said. "I want to be outside if we can on the grass, but the field was extremely wet and soft. We've torn it up some already, and we would have really messed it up by practicing on it this morning. Plus, the guys might have needed some relief from the heat this morning. We want them ready this afternoon."

The Hogs also worked hard on managing the 25-second clock with substitutions and the plays coming in via hand signals from the sideline.

"We had some problems, but we got better," Nutt said. "We want them in and out of the huddle in a hurry so it's not close. We were resetting the 25-second clock in quick fashion so it was tough. But, that's what we want to be able to do, get the play off with time to spare. I think we'll get better as we continue to work on it. That's the first time we've put it all on them as far as the substitution and the clock with the hand signals."

John Thompson raved about the move being made by Jermaine Petty at middle linebacker. The Hogs' defensive coordinator indicated that Petty and Collins will split time and are now sharing the starter spot.

"Jermaine has come on and gives us a 250-pound presence in the middle," Thompson said. "He's done well, and he's really provided some leadership. Let me just say Jermaine has done really well. We now have two good ones at middle linebacker and there will be some schemes where we get both of them on the field at the same time.

"Jermaine is the run stopper I had hoped he would be. He's done well in our scrimmages and was really good on the goal line. In the spring, we believed Jermaine Petty could do it, but he didn't have enough time to learn it and feel comfortable because he started off with a hamstring. He's been really good throughout fall camp and he's put it in another gear. Shane's been good, too. I like our situation there. And, we've got a good third one in Wesley O'Neal, and Clarke Moore can play it, too."

Thompson also indicated that Eddie Jackson is in the running for a starting cornerback slot with Ahmad Carroll and Lawrence Richardson. Jackson is also in the rotation at strong safety with Corey Harris.

"We've got the flexibility we want in the secondary now," Thompson said. "Eddie is one of our best players in the secondary. He might be a starting corner, and we will play all three. He's spent a lot of time this fall at safety, but we moved him back to corner this week and he's been great. He can play either place. We want to get our best players on the field and he might be one of our best corners."

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