Little Rock Trio Ready For Return Home

FAYETTEVILLE -- Three Arkansas true freshmen defensive linemen will make their first trips home when the Razorbacks play Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday.

For Jamaal Anderson, who's had five tackles in two games as a reserve bandit end, the excitement is in not knowing what to expect.

"There's just something about that crowd that's different from here," Anderson said. "I'm not sure yet what that is, but I'm going to find out on Saturday."

All three of the Little Rock freshmen -- Anderson, starting bandit end Marcus Harrison and reserve defensive tackle Fred Bledsoe -- have been to War Memorial Stadium for games on unofficial recruiting visits.

"It was about having fun when you went there as a prospect, but this is about business," said Bledsoe, who has two tackles in two games. "We can't take this team lightly."

Bledsoe is the only one of the three who has played in War Memorial before. His peewee football team, the Parkview Mustangs, played in a jamboree there. He also helped Central High win the Class AAAAA state championship there last fall.

Still, he can't wait to see and hear what War Memorial is like at its full capacity of 55,000-plus screaming Razorbacks fans.

"Little Rock fans are loud and get very intense down there," Bledsoe said. "They say its roars louder than up here at Fayetteville, but I don't know after the way the fans were (against Texas) last Saturday."

Houston Nutt, who also is from Little Rock, is 16-0 in War Memorial Stadium as Arkansas' head coach. The excitement surrounding this year's young team has made tickets for Saturday tough to find, even against a nonconference opponent.

"Little Rock has always been exciting," Nutt said. "Our guys are looking forward to it and our fans have been great down there.

"And it's a hard ticket right now so we're very appreciative."

RB BY COMMITTEE
It's been a balancing act in the Hogs' backfield as the coaching staff appears to have four quality running backs in DeCori Birmingham, De'Arrius Howard, Dedrick Poole and Peyton Hillis.

Through two games, the number of carries for each are similar. Poole has 19 carries for 58 yards, Birmingham has 18 carries for 68 yards, Howard has 14 carries for 48 yards and Hillis has 12 carries for 42 yards.

"It's not easy when you have that many good guys like that," Nutt said. "Trying to get everybody the touches that they want and I'm just glad that we've got all of them because we're going to need them.

"We've just got to keep that balance going and keep executing."

Arkansas is fourth in the Southeastern Conference in rushing -- averaging 198 yards per game -- and running backs coach Danny Nutt doesn't sound like he'll go to a two-back rotation anytime soon.

"It probably will later on," Danny Nutt said. "That's the way it usually ends up, a two-man rotation. But right now ... We just have to play it out.

"At this level, you really believe you've got to have three or four running backs because they take a beating."

Quarterback Matt Jones is the Hogs' leading rusher with 131 yards on 19 carries.

SURE HANDS
After each practice, Arkansas' receivers stand 10 yards or less away from a passing machine that shoots out spirals at 35 miles per hour.

It appears to be doing the trick. Receivers coach James Shibest said the Hogs haven't dropped a "catchable" ball yet and they lead the SEC in passing with 305 yards per game.

"There's been a few tough catches that we could have had," Shibest said. "Steven (Harris) had a couple last week and David Thompson had one the first game he maybe could have came up with.

"But we haven't dropped any that have been right in our hands and I don't plan on doing that."

In preseason practices, the coaches kept up with catches and misses in scrimmage-type situations. Harris (five drops in 57 chances) and Carlos Ousley (six drops in 57 chances) had the best numbers, but were closely followed by true freshman Marcus Monk, who had six drops in 48 chances.

Those three are the Hogs' leading receivers through two games. Ousley has eight receptions for 90 yards, Harris has four receptions for 85 yards and Monk has four catches for 80 yards.

"I'm very pleased with them and real happy with the way they're playing," Shibest said. "But it's only Game 2 and there are a lot of things we need to get better at, the little things you're supposed to do and we need to be able to do it consistently.

"The more we play, the better we should get."

RETURNING KICKS
Birmingham and Hillis will remain Arkansas' kick returners against Louisiana-Monroe since coaches haven't been able to accurately gauge their abilities through two games.

"We haven't had a chance to return a kick yet," said Shibest, who coaches special teams. "They sky kicked us the first game and then they kicked every one into the end zone last week so we're still waiting to see what they can do."

Only Michael Grant (one return for 11 yards) and Hillis (one return for 10 yards) have been credited with kick returns and both came on short kicks against New Mexico State.

GRID BITS
Since starting tight end Jared Hicks hasn't improved much this week from a sprained right shoulder, Houston Nutt said redshirt freshmen Mason Templeton and Payne Hall will receive the bulk of the snaps Saturday ... Starting noseguard Jeremy Harrell returned to practice Thursday with a high-ankle sprain, but remains questionable for Saturday's game ... Arkansas ended Thursday's practice with safety Vickiel Vaughn picking off a Robert Johnson pass intended for David Thompson during two-minute drill. Vaughn, who was hobbled early in the week with sprained right ankle, looked to be at full speed as he ran up field after the interception.

STAFF WRITER ROBBIE NEISWANGER CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.

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