Arkansas worked in full pads for about 90 minutes as the football team finished the last heavy day of practice before the season opener Thursday night against UNLV.
Fullback Sacha Lancaster practiced without problems from the ankle he sprained Thursday night. He is likely to play in the defensive line against UNLV, unless the ankle sprains over night. The rest of the Hogs' preparations will be minus full pads, so Lancaster is done with heavy work.
"We had a good day, although it did take them a little bit before they focused in and got after it like we wanted," said Houston Nutt, the Hogs' head coach. "This is our last day in full pads. We are going to meet at 8 a.m. in the morning, then turn them loose for the first day of classes. We won't see them again until the late afternoon and we are going to go under the lights of the stadium at 8 a.m. Monday.
"Our new uniforms are supposed to be here in the morning, and we may try those on. We'll get out and go through a few things on the stadium grass under the lights."
The Hogs may have worked only 90 minutes, but that didn't keep quarterback Zak Clark and wide receivers George Wilson and Sparky Hamilton to stay behind to get in another 20 minutes of extra pass-and-catch drills on their own. It was obvious that they were polishing for UNLV.
It was also obvious from listening to Nutt and QB coach David Lee that Clark is the Hogs' clear starter and may play from start to finish against UNLV.
"Zak's had a strong fall camp," Nutt said. "I have confidence in him. Will we play one of the others. We could, but we may not. The game will dictate that. I'd like to get another quarterback some snaps, but what I want more than anything is to put points on the board. That's the goal, score points."
Lee said, "For me to stand here and say we are going to play another quarterback would be folly. I can't promise that. You have no idea of the type game it will be. Heck it might be 21-21 going into the fourth quarter. If that's the case, we wouldn't pull Zak to give anyone playing time. It might be Zak from start to finish, or it might not."
Having said that, Nutt said, "While I have confidence in Zak, I also have all the confidence in playing the other three ... Ryan Sorahan, Matt Jones and Tarvaris Jackson. I think we can play them all. They know how to run our offense. But, Zak is our starter and we are going with him."
Secondary coach Dave Wommack likes what he sees in the revamped defensive backfield, but thinks it will be better after the Hogs play a few games.
"We've got some new players and we are better ... better than we were in the spring," Wommack said. "But we aren't as consistent as I'd like us to be. We'll be much better after a couple of games. We are still learning. We've given them a lot and they still make some mistakes. So, I know this will be a better secondary after we've been to battle a few times."
Wommack is pleased to see two of the newcomers come on in the last few days, especially Marvin Jackson.
"I'm so proud of Marvin," Wommack said. "He has been a different player the last four days. He's looked so much better.
"I think early on after he strained the groin, he really struggled. We weren't sure if it was the groin or that he just didn't have the speed that we thought he had. Whatever the reason, he didn't look very quick or fast. We thought it was the groin, but we didn't know.
"But here the last few days, he's been what we thought. Will he start? No. But, he's in the rotation now. The thing I like is that he never complained or dropped his head or got down on himself. He couldn't do some things, but he kept trying. He looked really good today."
Jimarr Gallon is another juco transfer that was hobbled through most of fall camp. However, unlike Jackson, he wasn't able to practice because of a hamstring pull.
"Jimarr has talent," Wommack said. "He is good as far as knowing what to do. He's smart. But, he missed almost everything. He wasn't out there. And, now we have to go with the guys who know what to do. He'll get it in time and help us at safety. He can show you on the board what is happening, but that's not like doing it on the field."
Safety Ken Hamlin likes what he sees of the depth with Jackson and Gallon regaining their speed.
"This is going to be a good group," Hamlin said. "We have good players everywhere and on the second and third team. We are going to have some fun. A lot of guys are going to play in this secondary before it's over and that will make it easier for us to play harder than last year. I like this defense."
Curt Davis, slowed midway through last week with a swollen knee, said he was 100 percent and felt quick and sharp after Sunday's workout.
"We are getting close to being ready to play," Davis said. "We are all excited to play someone. We've hit on each other long enough. We want to hit an opponent. This has been a great fall camp. We are healthy and playing hard. I think this is a good team."
Starting right tackle Mark Bokermann after a hard workout.
Tony Bua is the starter at wolf, the Hogs' weakside outside linebacker.
Mike Markuson (left) visits with Scott Cain after the workout.
Fred Talley looks tired after the workout, but Houston Nutt said the junior tailback would play in the opener. He looked quick Sunday.
J. Strain visits with a reporter after practice.
There is still a little work to do in the south end zone.
The Hogs use a lift to film practtice. Soon, they will be able to film from the top of the South End Zone. Already, Frank Broyles has found an air conditioned area of the south end zone to watch ... from the top level.
Photos by Clay Henry