Jobs Open In Secondary

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt is hanging a "Help Wanted" sign on his defensive backfield.

Nutt's starters in the secondary were mostly responsible for several big passing plays in man-to-man coverage during Florida's 28-point second quarter, leading him to go even deeper into his youth movement in the second half.

Nutt said Sunday jobs in the defensive backfield will be up for grabs in the two weeks before Arkansas (3-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) takes the field again at No. 6 and Western Division-leading Auburn (5-0, 3-0) on Oct. 16.

"(The backup) guys are going to get a chance to play," Nutt said. "They're going to have a chance to start. What I hope it does is create a healthy competition of, ‘Hey, I'm fixing to get better.'

"That's what you're trying to create: An atmosphere of getting better or losing my position."

Nutt sat down cornerbacks Darius Vinnett and Michael Coe and strong safety Lerienzo Robinson and free safety Vickiel Vaughn -- all first-year starters -- in favor of corners Michael Grant and Matterral Richardson and strong safety Dallas Washington and free safety Randy Kelly.

Grant, Richardson and Washington are all true freshmen and Kelly is a junior college transfer.

Robinson and Vaughn are juniors, Coe is a redshirt sophomore and Vinnett is a junior college transfer.

Vaughn missed two crucial tackles, once on Andre Caldwell's 61-yard touchdown run on a reverse and again against Caldwell when Vaughn was in position to stop him short of a first down and instead gave up a 33-yard gain.

Robinson and Vinnett also had problems sticking with Florida receivers and Coe got burned on a 48-yard touchdown to Jemalle Cornelius just before halftime.

After allowing Chris Leak to go 14 of 20 for 237 yards in the first half, Arkansas' revamped defensive backfield held him to 9 of 18 for 85 in the second.

The starters played much of the third quarter before giving way to the backups in the fourth with Arkansas trailing 38-14.

After Arkansas cut the lead to 38-22, Grant made a four-yard sack of Leak on first down and Kelly broke up what would have been a first-down completion to Caldwell on third-and-7 to set up Arkansas' final touchdown drive.

"The thing we'll tell them (Sunday) is the ones that play are the ones that go full speed all the time, the ones that give great effort, that will consistently listen and take the technique their taught out on to the field," Nutt said. "These guys have stepped up now and they deserve some playing time and deserve a chance."

Vaughn, Robinson and Coe have all suffered ankle injuries this year and redshirt freshman cornerback Chris Houston missed his second straight game with a high ankle sprain.

Nutt said he may scrimmage once in the next two weeks to get a better evaluation of his secondary.

The defensive line struggled to get pressure on Leak all day, but Nutt said the best players are already on the field at those positions and the key to getting more pressure is finding a way to spring Arkansas linebackers loose on blitzes.

Nutt doesn't want any starters thinking jobs are safe in the next two weeks and said "it's kind of open season on everything."

"Not that we're trying to make wholesale changes," he said. "But we're trying to emphasize that everyone can get better. The only way you get better is to practice perfect."


Junior starting tight end Jared Hicks reinjured his shoulder against Florida and was held out of practice Sunday. It is the same injury he suffered against New Mexico State that caused him to miss the Louisiana-Monroe game.

Starting center Kyle Roper suffered a back strain and was also held out Sunday.

Several other players had to get fluids intravenously on the plane ride back from Gainesville after suffering from heat-related illness in the 74 percent humidity and 85-degree conditions at The Swamp.

Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones had a large bruise on his throwing (right) shoulder after the game and slung several side-arm style passes -- including the interception thrown behind Carlos Ousley to kill the comeback -- but Nutt said Sunday nothing is wrong with Jones' arm.


Nutt was disappointed his offense couldn't move the ball in the first quarter while his defense was forcing three straight three-and-outs to open the game.

While the pass protection was decent, Arkansas didn't get much from its running game all day.

The Razorbacks got only 67 yards from tailbacks DeCori Birmingham (11 for 35, TD), De'Arrius Howard (8 for 23, TD) and Peyton Hillis (5 for 14), an average of just 2.8 yards per carry.

Nutt said his line was simply outmatched up front.

"It's just getting whipped at the line of scrimmage, bottom line," he said. "I know they can play better than that. We can block better. We have to have more running room."


Arkansas will have its usual schedule this week with full practices Tuesday-Thursday. Nutt will give his players Friday and Saturday off to go home before returning for a full pads practice next Sunday.


After Hillis was injured, Arkansas went to seldom-used backup Kyle Dickerson and he responded with two huge plays during the comeback.

He caught a 2-yard pass on fourth-and-2 late in the third quarter to sustain Arkansas' second touchdown drive and bailed out Matt Jones on third-and-13 by taking a pass along the sideline and motoring upfield 10 yards for the first down to keep Arkansas' next touchdown drive alive.

Dickerson, who has mostly seen garbage-time action in the last two years with two career touchdowns against New Mexico State, will get a lot more action now that Hillis is likely done for the season.

"Kyle did a great job for us," Nutt said. "He really stepped in and did a great job for us blocking and catching."


Nutt wasn't in awe of The Swamp after Saturday's announced crowd of just more than 90,000 took its time showing up and rarely reached the decibel level it's famous for.

"I didn't know if anyone was going to show up at first," he said. "I was really surprised. I thought it would be much louder."

Nutt didn't know what to make of some of the fans behind the Arkansas bench.

"It was kind of funny, the world we're in," he said. "When we started coming back, some of the fans sitting behind us were acting like they were cheering for us. I don't know. It was strange."


After moving up to No. 27 in the Associated Press poll last week following its 27-10 win against Alabama, Arkansas received no votes from the national writers after its 45-30 loss.

The Hogs got more love from the coaches, who may have noted Arkansas' comeback from 31 points down to within 8 in the final quarter.

Arkansas is No. 32 in the "also receiving votes" section of the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 with 9 votes.

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