Redshirts Re-energized

Arkansas true freshman Alex Mortensen said it's not easy spending his first season on campus running the scout-team offense.



The third-string quarterback, who will redshirt unless he's pressed into action, said he's learning as much as he can from the sidelines. But the knowledge Mortensen gains watching Matt Jones run the Hogs pales in comparison to what he picks up when he gets repetitions during practice.

That's why Mortensen -- and the rest of Arkansas' redshirts -- look forward to workouts like last week.

"It's a good chance for you to get more reps," said Mortensen, who got more involved in pass skeleton, seven-on-seven and team drills. "All this time when the other guys are getting most of the reps, you're trying to get mental reps by watching. Now it gives you a chance to take what you've learned by watching and apply it at game speed and do it physically.

"It's exciting. It's definitely more fun because you get to play more."

Younger players don't get much attention during the season, a fact of life for any program that devotes hours of preparation for upcoming opponents. But the Hogs redshirting this season have gotten plenty of work during Arkansas' two bye weeks.

"It's kind of a way to re-energize some of the younger guys because it gives them a chance to get some work," said quarterbacks coach Roy Wittke. "Regardless of how much they guard against avoiding the tendency to drift away because they're not playing a lot, it's only human nature to where they start to get in a little rut.

"This is a way to kind of give them a little extra work and get them excited about playing and challenge them a little bit. And also bring them back up to speed with some of the base things we're doing offensively."

Typically, the Hogs will hold scrimmages during bye week practices to give younger players a test in game-like situations. But Arkansas changed its schedule last week because the staff wanted to rest and rehabilitate banged-up players.

Instead of scrimmaging, the Hogs scaled back to preserve its depth before entering the final month. Coach Houston Nutt said the first bye week was scrimmage heavy for redshirting players. The second emphasized fundamentals.

"They haven't gotten any scrimmage time like we normally would've done, but we gave them a lot of fundamental work," Nutt said. "A lot of individual drills. Which has been good, some attention that they need."

Nutt also said young players like tight end Marc Winston, linebacker Zach Snider and defensive back Desmond Williams have added as much as 15 pounds in the weight room. Veterans lift weights twice a week, while redshirts work in the weight room four times.

Wittke said the first year is never easy for redshirts, but the extra weight lifting and off-week experiences will be valuable next spring.

"The bottom line is they get more attention," Wittke said. "Even though there's the thought process of getting ready for South Carolina, we can still take a step back and pay attention to details. You get away from the time crunch preparation and you're able to work at a little bit of a slower pace."



Hillis Feeling Lucky

Fullback Peyton Hillis was too wrapped up in efforts to get back on the field to consider he originally was slated to miss the rest of the regular season with a back injury. But when the true-freshman from Conway stopped to think about it, Hillis said his rapid return from three fractured transverse processes -- bones attached to the vertebrae -- was a fairly remarkable feat.

"The more I think about it, it is pretty amazing," Hillis said about his return to action during Saturday night's 20-14 loss to No. 10 Georgia. "But during the process I was so worried about getting back and trying to get myself healed as quick as I could. Now I look back on it, it really is amazing that it happened.

"I'm pretty lucky for this."

Nutt said Hillis is improving and getting close to "100 percent," a far cry from Arkansas' initial beliefs that the 6-foot-2, 240-pounder would miss the rest of the season. Nutt is confident he made the right decision by limiting Hillis to a few snaps against the Bulldogs and believes it'll pay dividends at South Carolina on Saturday.

"We won't know until he takes a pounding for a few snaps," Nutt said. "I think he's running better, agility, bending and all those things he didn't do as well as he did last week. He's doing much better this week with some of the things as far as turning, twisting, bending down for a ball. I think he's real close to 100 percent."



Leach On Schedule

Quarterback Landon Leach, who sustained a season-ending shoulder injury during preseason drills, said he's hoping to be back at full strength by the time Arkansas' spring drills begin.

The redshirt freshman underwent surgery four months ago to repair the damage in his throwing shoulder. It was the second consecutive year Leach's season was cut short because of shoulder surgery. But Leach, who said he "pretty much" has a full range of motion already, is hoping to be back on the practice field in March or April.

"It's been a tough couple of years going through this," said Leach, who attended one of Arkansas' practices last week. "There's a chance that I can start spring at full speed and that is definitely my goal."

Leach is scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday for a check up. He'll continue to rehabilitate his shoulder until spring practice.



Extra Points

The Razorbacks will return to the practice field this afternoon to take part in a full pads workout after taking Thursday, Friday and Saturday off. Arkansas will continue preparation for South Carolina, which lost to No. 11 Tennessee 43-29 Saturday. ... Mississippi State's 22-7 win against Kentucky drops the Hogs to the bottom of the Southeastern Conference Western Division standings. The Bulldogs are 2-3 in SEC play, while Arkansas is 1-3.

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