Thursday Grid Report, 10/16

Arkansas will try someone new at punt return specialist this week.

Arkansas worked for about 90 minutes in a spirited and fast-paced Thursday football practice which put the finishing touches on the game plan for Saturday's game with Florida.

The Razorbacks focused on the special teams with an emphasis on punt returns where DeCori Birmingham will be the return man, taking over for Marvin Jackson.

"DeCori is better at going north and south than Marvin," said James Shibest, the Hogs coach for special teams. "Marvin is playing defense a lot of snaps. He may be tired or not in focus when he's been back there on punt returns. We are going to go with DeCori. He's bigger."

It appears the Hogs' walking wounded are well. Caleb Miller and Jared Hicks, the Hogs shaken up the worst the last week, appeared to be full speed. Hicks made a diving catch in practice Thursday.

"He stretched out and rolled a couple of times," said Clifton Ealy of the grab Hicks made Thursday. "I wanted to see him pop up and smile and that's what happened. He's ready to go and we know that after that play."

The quarterbacks had a good week, said assistant coach Roy Wittke. He was pleased with the way both Matt Jones and Ryan Sorahan got the team in and out of the huddle all week.

"I thought Houston did a good job of setting the tone at our meeting Sunday and again on Tuesday," Wittke said. "What we want to see is a faster tempo and that starts in the huddle. Our quarterbacks have to set the tempo. I think when we play fast we are more aggressive and much more physical. We want to tire the defensive team with a quick pace. We never got to that point last week.

"I thought Matt had a good week. He threw the ball a little more this week and was more effective than he was in the game last week.

"I was pleased with the way our players came back this week. They are a mature team and that showed in the way they accepted things and practiced. We didn't play well last week and that's why we suffered a defeat. They know why we didn't play as well and our players went about correcting those things that were points of emphasis this week."

James Shibest thought the same thing. He said the wide receivers had one of their best weeks.

"I've really thought they've played pretty well, with the exception of the first game when we dropped some," Shibest said. "But this was a good week."

Will Chris Baker play more after contributing two big plays last week, one of them a pass interference penalty in the end zone?

"Chris is getting better, but he still has a lot to learn," Shibest said. "We've got a lot of experience around him. He's going to keep getting some snaps and we'll keep expanding the package. He's a good one, but still really young."


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