Arkansas was missing some of its walking wounded for Tuesday's workout, the first in full pads on the week as preparations for Georgia hit the high gear.
Matt Jones, senior quarterback, spent the first half of the workout in the training room riding an exercise bike in his extensive rehab for a pulled groin muscle in his left leg. Jones joined the offense, mainly watching, for the final team segments of the workout. He did step under center as the Hogs walked through one new play.
Robert Johnson took all of the first team snaps at quarterback. Redshirt Alex Mortensen split time between the scout team, where he wore No. 14 and simulated Georgia's David Greene, and the varsity. He took the snaps with the second team during the bulk of the team segments.
Cornerback Michael Coe did not practice because of a strained thigh muscle. Coe is doubtful for this week. He rode an exercise bike for the first 20 minutes of the workout, then jogged around the field for the next 20 minutes. He did not practice at all.
Michael Grant worked with the first team at cornerback in Coe's absence and is the likely starter. Chris Houston also is in the picture at cornerback for a possible starting spot after missing the last few weeks with first an ankle sprain and last week because of disciplinary action. Houston did not travel to Auburn after returning late for last Sunday's workout following a trip home during the open week.
Offensive left tackle Tony Ugoh missed the workout because of a kidney stone. Trainers are hopeful that he can pass the stone Tuesday night and perhaps return to workouts on Wednesday. Nate Garner took the snaps at left tackle in Ugoh's absence.
Head coach Houston Nutt thought the Hogs looked sharp in the Tuesday workout. He said Johnson threw the ball "well" and displayed confidence in the offense.
"We showed good concentration," Nutt said of the workout. "It's obvious this group wants to win. They made it fun to come to work today with the way they practiced. It looked like we had some guys step up today. We also had what few seniors we've got show great leadership.
"We are just trying to get better. We are playing top 10 teams in Florida, Auburn and Georgia. We are seeing a different speed of athlete. These teams are very good."
Nutt said it was plain that Jones was improving.
"He feels better," Nutt said. "He's getting two or three treatments a day. He was out here with us watching part of the day and we hope he can do a little bit on Wednesday and a little more on Thursday. Right now, I'd still say he's questionable, but he's getting better.
"Robert Johnson worked hard. He threw it well. He did some good things and made some good decisions."
Quarterback coach Roy Wittke thinks that Johnson would be able to run the offense without problems. He said he's become more comfortable with the reads and the check system.
"Robert has had some game experience now and he won't feel a shock when he's out there," Wittke said. "You can see him starting to get a feel for it."
Jones said he doesn't know what his chances of playing against Georgia. He did little to show his hand if a decision has already been made for him not to play.
"I'm cool right now," said Jones, using his favorite word when he wants to say things are alright. "I'm getting better day by day. The treatments are going well."
He said he knows enough about the injury to say it's not like the one he had last year before the Texas game.
"It's in the same area, but this one is different," he said. "I'm not saying it's as bad or not as bad. Just different. It is getting better, though. We'll just have to see how it is the next two days and then again on Saturday."
Did he miss not practicing Sunday or Tuesday?
"It's cool," he said. "I'm okay. I'll be better tomorrow and hopefully I can practice some. I'm cool."
Running back Peyton Hillis got plenty of work on Tuesday, taking many snaps with the first group. He missed last week after cracking three small bones in his back against Florida. He'll undergo X-rays on Wednesday in hopes of getting clearance from doctors to play Saturday.
"If it was up to just me, I'd play for sure," Hillis said. "I felt good today. It was a little tender, but everyone out here has something that's a little tender. You play this game if you are just a little tender. No problem there at all with me if I'm a little tender.
"I understand that it is going to be up to the doctors and then the coaches, and not me. I'm fine with that. I know they will do what's right for the team and for me. I'm okay with that, but I want to play. I think I can play and help the team. That's all I want to do, help the team get a victory. That's what I'm here for and it hurts more that I can't play than what I'm feeling in my back."
The Hogs practiced for about two hours, but the defensive line stayed late for extra work. First, assistant coach Tracy Rocker put the players through their paces, then the line stayed after that with Jeb Huckeba, senior end, leading the workout.
"Coach Rocker wanted to show us a few more things and then we wanted to try to perfect them," Huckeba said. "This team is like that. We all are willing to do the extra thing. We are working to get better. We've got some young guys eager to learn. I'm not someone who has been with the D-line for four years, but I know there are a few things that I can share that might help them. That's the attitude this entire team has and we aren't afraid to work."
Huckeba said he is thankful to have made the move from linebacker to defensive end, and to have worked under Rocker.
"For me, it was the right thing," he said. "I've heard people say it's not my best spot, but I think it's been perfect for me. I think I became a man under Coach Rocker. I learned to hit. I don't think I knew how before I became a linemen. You hit on every play, on every practice if you are a D-linemen or an O-linemen. I've had to grow up in a hurry. It's a war there. So, I wouldn't trade it. I've learned to play with my hands. I didn't know how to do that before. So it's been great for me."
Grid Update, 10/19
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