The University of Arkansas football team got back to the practice field on Saturday without its All-American offensive lineman, but with everybody else accounted for and participating in what was almost a three-hour workout.
Shawn Andrews, a junior offensive tackle who may or may not play in the Dec. 31 Independence Bowl because of what a UA release labeled sinus problems, was scheduled to arrive back in Fayetteville late Saturday after a few days of attending award banquets.
The sinus problem is something that the Razorback coaching staff has known about for awhile.
"It's not a surprise," UA head coach Houston Nutt said. "We have known about it for a couple of weeks."
Asked if there was anything to the persistent rumors that Andrews might just want to skip the game to protect his NFL viability or might have had contact with an agent, Nutt was clear.
"I hope he is not thinking that way," said Nutt, who expects to have everything resolved one way or the other by Sunday's 2 p.m. practice.
The Razorback coach was then asked if Andrews wanted to play in the game.
"I hope so," Nutt said. "I'll know when he gets here. I will talk to him and see what is going on and get all the questions answered."
Razorback offensive line coach Mark Markuson said he has been "agonizing" for about two weeks on whether Andrews was going to be available to play or not.
He was with Andrews for the Lombardi Award dinner on Wednesday.
"Myself, I was agonizing over it," Markuson said. "I was down there with him and I was just going dadgum on how much he was hurting. You want him to be out with your guys, but what do you do? That is a call that he has got to make for himself with his health and with his family. I am not down on him, he has got to do what is best for him and we have got to move forward and see what happens.
"We have all talked to him," Markuson added. "(UA athletic director) Coach (Frank) Broyles has talked to him, I've talked to him, Coach Nutt has talked to him."
Markuson then added this about how tough it is to deal with talented juniors who might leap to the NFL instead of returning for their senior year.
"It comes down to some of these guys have junior-itis," Markuson said. "When these guys joke about it - ‘if you come out, I am going to come out' - and they all talk to one another and with agents. You don't know what people have talked to these guys. You have no control over it. What do you do? You hope that they'll come back."
If Andrews does not come back, sophomore Zac Tubbs will start in his spot and got all the reps at right tackle on Saturday.
"We got on him last year about coming back a little bit heavier, but Zac has done a good job with (weight and strength) Coach (Don) Decker and he has run more," Markuson said. "I think he is quicker than he was when he came here. He is a guy that has been in the game and he is anxious and excited about the opportunity to play. I think it is going to be good."
Nutt said Arkansas will attack the same way whether Andrews or Tubbs is the man at right tackle.
"We will keep the same thing going," Nutt said. "Zac played a lot more last year. We haven't had the opportunity to get him in there (this year) as much. You have to remember he came back overweight for two-a-days, but gradually he has gotten in better shape. We expect he can do the offense - both run and pass."
Tubbs said he was ready for the challenge even if he was rooting for Andrews to actually play.
"It is just a great opportunity for me if Shawn doesn't come back, but I hope he comes back," Tubbs said. "He is a great asset to the team. If he chooses not to, then I will make the best of my opportunity and maybe get a head start on next year.
"I am pretty confident," Tubbs continued. "I just need to have a good week, week-and-a-half of hard work and get to where I need to be."
Markuson as working a combination of the old and the young along the offensive line in the practice on Saturday.
"Robert Felton, James Johnson, Kyle Roper, Gene Perry - those are guys that have got to play for us next year," Markuson said. "I thought we had good intensity and they are working hard. It is going to fun because we are challenging the younger guys to help the older guys and the older guys want to go out the right way. They want to play well in the bowl."
Tony Ugoh is another young offensive lineman who got lots of work and saw some of it at tackle.
"We are taking a guy like Tony Ugoh and letting him play some tackle because he might next year," Markuson said. "It hurts a little bit that Nate Garner and Matt Gilbow had surgeries. They are able to do some things without pads."
On defense, senior Tony Bua was working at both safety and wolf linebacker, his old spot under UA assistant Chris Vaughn.
"We are just working him out at both places," Vaughn said. "We need some depth there. We haven't gone over our final day gameplan, we don't have much of that in place yet, but we are going to make sure he is on the field the whole time. There is a lot of stuff coming back to him. I am fired up about it myself."
UA tailback Cedric Cobbs, wearing jersey No. 3 instead of No. 4 as he did in Wednesday's first bowl practice, looked good on Saturday as he approaches being fully healthy.
"Cedric Cobbs is doing good and running good," said Nutt of his 1,000-plus senior tailback. "You always worry about the cold weather (and injury) and that is why it is good to have an indoor warm place. He has got to continue to stretch and get warmed up very aggressively."
The practice was as long as Arkansas has had in several weeks with juniors Batman Carroll and Jason Peters - two juniors contemplating jumps to the NFL - fully participating.
"It was a full practice today," Nutt said. "It has been a long time since we went 28 periods. It was full pads and we got everybody some fundamental work. I think we got better today and you can't say enough about this Walker Pavilion. We are so appreciative of it to be able to get something done when there are two or three inches of snow out there."
Arkansas, no doubt enthused about the news that standout Conway fullback Peyton Hillis had committed to the Razorbacks over Oklahoma on Friday night, ended the workout with the older guys getting in some conditioning and the younger ones getting after it in a scrimmage.
He was quick to praise some offensive guys like freshman quarterback Robert Johnson, who is impersonating Missouri quarterback Brad Smith.
"Robert Johnson was outstanding," Nutt said. "Robert Johnson made some plays and (wideouts) Chris Baker and Cedric Washington. We got them a little bit in there and they are going to be really good players. They are getting better."
Nutt also lauded tailback Dedrick Poole as "stronger and quicker" since having surgery and Felton and Roper plus tight end Mason Templeton s wells as defenders such as linebacker Anthony Gray, cornerback Chris Houston and safety Kevin Woods on defense.
"All in all a very good day," Nutt said. "We have just got to keep it going."
Saturday's UA Football Practice Report
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