Arkansas prepared for a wet football field in practice this week with an eye towards a rainy forecast Saturday night in Knoxville, Tenn., where the Razorbacks are set to face Tennessee. Bret Bielema said on his Thursday night radio show that the wet ball was a constant in this week's practices.
"We worked with crowd noise and we also worked with wet conditions in mind this week," Bielema said. "We worked with a wet ball this week and we were on the grass practice field."
Bielema said offensive line coach Sam Pittman, a former assistant at Tennessee, said the field at Neyland Stadium "drains well," but the team will travel with three pairs of cleats.
"We have some special shoes with longer cleats," Bielema said. "Our offense wore them Tuesday and our defense on Wednesday. We will have a two or three cleats and we'll be ready. Our wide receiver will have the wet gloves.
"It's a basic fundamental thing, you change your cleats. But if it becomes an issue, we'll tell them to shorten their stides and play with sure footing. You want to stay on your feet and not make sharp cuts."
Bielema said the Hogs had "really good practices" Tuesday through Thursday.
The Arkansas coach praised the work of starting wide receiver Drew Morgan, the top pass catcher now with 18 receptions. He said Morgan has embraced the opportunity with Keon Hatcher, Cody Hollister and Jared Cornelius out with injuries.
"Drew does not lack for confidence and he was ready when his chance came," Bielema said. "We also saw the emergence of a couple of other players at that position. Duwop Mitchell and Dominique Reed both had their first touches as far as receptions and they have both had a good week in practice and we hope they keep moving forward."
Bielema was asked about quarterback Brandon Allen, someone who was hard on himself after the loss to Texas A&M.
"I sat down with him after the weekend," Bielema said. "Sometimes the quarrterback gets too much credit and too much blame. But I know that every player on our team and every coach thinks he is the man for the job. He hasn't come through in some late game situations, but maybe the call didn't go his way or a player come through with a play.
"Tonight after practice I grabbed him to see where his head was. He said he was tired of what was happening and he said, 'Let's go make it happen.'"
Bielema said he had that message to the team on Tuesday.
"I reminded them that they don't want to get used to (losing)," he said of the three-game losing streak. "You can't allow it to be normal. You can't let allow the easy way to be the only way."
Bielema said running back Kody Walker, out the last two weeks with a broken hand, was able to improve in practice this week and should play against Tennessee.
"He tried to practice last week and it was just throbbing," Bielema said. "He's got a little cast and handled holding the football. He's got fresh legs, something you notice in practice this week."
Freshman fullback Kenderick Jackson may get more snaps this week after a successful progression of plays against the Aggies.
"Last week he graded 100 percent on his four plays," Bielema said. "We should have played him four to eight more because he was so efficient."
Bielema was asked about the Tennessee offense, in particular the running of quarterback Josh Dobbs.
"They run the quarterback as part of their offense, but they protect him with a linemen or a tight end," Bielema said. "But there are definitely some things you can pick up on film.
"Butch (Jones) has some trick plays, but he believes they are just part of the offense. Last week they ran a bubble with a throw back to the quarterback. They probably practice it twice a day and then they will come back with another play off of that."