Houston remains questionable with an ankle injury for Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game against Alabama, but Arkansas coach Houston Nutt was upbeat about the redshirt freshman's progress over the last few days.
"Chris Houston is still working his way, but he's getting better, much better," Nutt said. "Hopefully, he can keep improving the way he has these last 48 hours. He's really come on."
If Houston can't play Saturday, that'll leave the Hogs with holes to fill at cornerback and at gunner on punt team.
Houston has been the first cornerback to sub for starters Michael Coe and Darius Vinnett. That spot sees plenty of action as the coaching staff usually rotates a third guy in when one of the starters needs a break or is confused on an assignment.
"I see Materral "Red" Richardson and Michael Grant getting more into the game plan this week," said Hogs secondary coach Bobby Allen. "They're both getting better and better every time they get a chance to get on the field so we feel like right now, they can go out and help us."
At this time, Allen said Richardson is a "little" ahead of Grant.
"(Richardson) is a very good technician," Allen said. "I think he studies the game and sees it fairly well. He's got some natural ability, there's no doubt about it. He puts himself in good positions."
Richardson said he's just excited about the opportunity.
"I'm happy to be on the field at anytime being a freshman," Richardson said. "You look on TV, there's not that many freshman playing especially in the (Southeastern Conference), so that's a big privilege."
Grant, who was a free safety in high school and has had to adjust to cornerback, has made strides over the past two weeks. He has five tackles in two games, including three last week in a 49-20 win against Louisiana-Monroe.
"Michael Grant is getting better and better everyday," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack. "It's about his time to come around and there's some real speed with him.
"The little bit that he's got to play, he's done a good job and I'm excited about seeing him play."
The leading candidates at gunner, should Houston not go, are John Johnson, Dedrick Poole and Vinnett.
Peprah On Jones
Alabama junior Charlie Peprah took a deep breath, exhaled and paused for a few seconds before answering a question about his thoughts on Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones.
"Matt Jones is an athlete," said Peprah, who has six tackles including one for a loss since moving from cornerback to strong safety this season. "Just the things he can do, especially his running ability. The rush is like obsolete to him. He looks past the rush down the field. He just steps to the side and lets them dive at his feet."
Peprah sees Jones' scrambling ability as a potential problem for the Tide's secondary.
"You could have good coverage on a guy for the whole play," Peprah said. "And all of a sudden, he takes off and starts free-styling running around school-yard routes. No matter how good your coverage was before the play broke down, you have to cover until the whistle blows.
"You can sit there and watch him. You can't assume he'll get sacked because he comes out of those arm tackles easy."
It can be a catch-22, according to Peprah.
"For a (defensive back), it's going to be an exciting game," Peprah said. "Because he'll give you a chance to pick one off, but at the same time hit you with a big play or burn you deep."
Brooks & Brown
Alabama native and Hogs linebacker Pierre Brown's engine may be running a little faster than normal on Saturday, especially on special teams.
Brown's Shades Valley High teammate Brandon Brooks returns punts and kicks for the Tide. The speedy 5-foot-5, 165-pound junior runs a 4.35 second, 40-yard dash, which is the all-time record for an Alabama receiver.
"They do a great job with kickoff returns," Nutt said. "We've got to make sure that we're in our lanes."
Brooks has nine punt returns for 27 yards and two kick returns for 112 yards, including an 87-yarder in last week's 52-0 win against Western Carolina. He also returned a kick 96-yards for a touchdown against Auburn last season.
"We hang out all the time when we go back home. We're real close friends," said Brown, who's second on the Hogs' team with 21 tackles. "This will be for bragging rights a little bit, but we really don't try to talk about football too much when we're around each other."
Brown and Brooks hooked up on an official visit to Alabama together when they were seniors. They stay in touch often, but likely won't hook up again until after the game.
"We probably won't talk this week," Brown said. "I haven't called him and he's not going to call me, but after the game, we'll talk again."
Arkansas' David Carlton got to live most kickers' dreams when he made a possible touchdown saving tackle last week Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe.
"It felt like I was the last guy," said Carlton, who also has a touchdown-saving tackle against Florida last season. "But with the speed we've got on kickoffs, I'm sure somebody would have ran him down."
A blocker was even flagged for a holding penalty on the 6-1, 186-pound Carlton, but he fought through it to wrap up his third tackle of the season after being dragged for several yards.
"I usually have a free path to the guy or at least to hit somebody," Carlton said. "But they actually put somebody out there to block me so I couldn't see where (the ball carrier) was going until he was about even with me.
"I just reached out there and grabbed the back of his shoulder pads and he kept trying to break free. Then, I just kind of slid down to his ankles and I think that's what brought him down."
Of course, Carlton received some praise from teammates after the play as well as an extra replay or two in the film room Sunday.
"Coach (Houston) Nutt was like, 'Come on Dave. We've got to put those in the end zone so that doesn't happen,'" Carlton said. "I guess it was my fault."
Wommack and linebackers coach Chris Vaughn both said it would be a game-time decision on whether Sam Olajubutu or Clarke Moore starts at middle linebacker.
"Here's the thing," Vaughn said. "It's not that I don't want (the media) to know, but the first thing I do when I go on the road trip, I pick up the newspaper in their home town and see what's going on.
"So it'll be a game-time decision."
Regardless, Olajubutu appears as if he'll get the nod. He's been the main middle linebacker working with the first-team defense the past few practices.
Houston Remains Questionable For Saturday
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