Arkansas finished its last practice before heading into game week Saturday morning, moving inside Walker Pavilion while thunderstorms rolled through the Ozarks on a cool, wet day.
"Last night was one of our better rehearsal (practices)," said head coach Houston Nutt. "The offensive line with Tyler Morgan, Jonathon Luigs, Cody Green and Marc Winston really did well. Alex Mortensen did a wonderful job executing and gave us a great picture of New Mexico State.
"This morning, our motor was really running. We did a great job of back-to-back practices. We went late last night, not finishing until 9 p.m. and then got right back out here at 10 a.m. That's unusual to have great workouts that close together, but our guys really did a nice job."
The Hogs were not in full pads in Walker Pavilion, still under construction as a new weight room is being added to the north side. Because of that work, and the fact plywood barriers are close to the north sideline, most all plays went to the south side.
"You noticed that," Nutt laughed as a reporter asked if there was a reason. "We didn't want any guys hitting that plywood full speed."
Still, a couple of passes went to the wouth bounary during seven-on-seven drills. Vickiel Vaughn called out for a fellow defensive back to "look out for the plywood" more than a couple of times, once with Darius Vinnett sliding into the boards after a diver for a low pass.
Nutt said the Hogs have hit more this fall than in recent camps.
"We've had more contact," he said. "We've had a lot of middle drills, and we've done a lot of other things where we haven't tackled to the ground. We hit about 80-81 plays last night and about another 60 today. We just are not tackling to the ground. I like the work ethic of this team. Yes, we've had more contact than in three or four years."
Marcus Harrison continued to work at first string defensive end, with returning starter Elliott Harris set to backup Jeb Huckeba on the other side. Harrison has impressed with his quickness and high-speed approach to every drill and scrimmage. Harrison is a true freshman who spent last season at Hargrave Military Academy. The Hogs are looking for more pressure in their pass rush and Harrison might answer that need.
"His motor runs very fast," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said about Harrison. "We may have to live with some young mistakes with him, but he's playing so fast and it's been a consistent thing."
Wommack said he thinks his defense is about "one and a half positions deep. We have about five or six guys on the second team ready and we'd like to say that we have 11. We've got a week to get the others ready. We've got some spots that we are comfortable with, like most of the slots in our front seven. We are about two or three deep in the front. I really like what we have in our defensive line. We've had a nice push for playing time in our line."
Interestingly, Marcus Harrison will wear No. 55 this season, the same number as UA placekicker Chris Balseiro. This will mark the second straight season the Hogs have had players wearing duplicate numbers in games. Last year, both Ahmad Carroll and Richard Smith wore No. 8.
There was thought that at least one other duplication of jersey numbers was on the horizon when true freshmen Cody Green and Fred Bledsoe both wore No. 72 in practices. Bledsoe has been assigned No. 42 for games. Cedric Logan will wear No. 25 in games after donning No. 5 in practices.
Houston Nutt didn't disclose names, but said he expects 11 or 12 true freshmen to play this season, the most ever in his time as head coach. Kevin Trainor, the UA sports information director, said the record during Nutt's time was nine about four years ago.
"We aren't set on all of them, but we've made some decisions," Nutt said. "Alex Mortensen will be a redshirt, we hope. We'd like to keep the shirt on him. He's going to be ready to play and travel, but we hope we keep the shirt on him."
Saturday Grid Report, 8/28
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