Arkansas returned to the practice field Tuesday with a physical practice that included two or three brief skirmishes when the offense and defense squared off in some hitting drills.
The workout included several open-field tackling drills where the Hogs tried to test linebackers and the secondary after some missed tackles against South Carolina.
"It's been a tough 48 hours after losing a very tough ball game," said coach Houston Nutt. "But I liked the way the team brought it in practice today. They've done what we've asked all year. It was a good day with good effort."
Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack wouldn't commit to any lineup changes for Saturday's game with Ole Miss, but he said there are a couple of position switches getting a hard look this week. John Johnson has moved ahead of both John Jackson and Kevin Woods at the Husky back spot and Randy Kelly moved ahead of Lerinezo Robinson at free safety.
In a clarification of the secondary look, Wommack noted that Vickiel Vaughn had moved to strong safety two games ago with Robinson and Kelly playing free safety.
"We wanted to get Vickiel in position to make more plays," Wommack said. "We are doing more things with our rover or strong safety spot and he fits what we are doing there."
Asked about Robinson's move to the second team, Wommack said that Kelly had played more physical and played faster.
"We are going to put the players on the field who play hard on every play," Wommack said. "If you take a play off, then you are coming off the field. It's about effort and playing hard. That's the way we are going to do it."
Wommack said no other changes were made in the first unit, but he did say that Jamal Anderson at defensive end and Fred Bledsoe, working at tackle and defensive end, will continue to get more snaps.
"Jamal Anderson has added about 30 pounds since we started in August," Wommack said. "He's still going to need to add some more, but he's coming as far as his body and the way he's playing. He came to me at the start of practice today and pointed to his pants and said, 'Look coach, they weren't tight like this at the start of the season.' He's lifting three and four times a week. He's starting to get some real strength and bulk to his legs, hips and butts. He's still a thin guy, but he's gaining strength and weight.
"I like what I see from the guys up front. They are getting better and better. We are getting some depth there and playing better each week. We are getting some young guys some experience and they are beginning to make some plays."
At linebacker and in the secondary, Wommack said it is a matter of doing a better job of training their eyes and getting their bodies into position to make plays.
"At linebacker, sometimes we are a step away and stick out an arm and try to make the play," Wommack said. "That means they were late seeing it and making the step. In the secondary, we have to be more physical. I'd like to do more hitting and tackle more in practice, but you can't do that any more because of the numbers.
"You have to do your tackling in the spring and in August. And, with the numbers we had at the start of the year, we probably didn't tackle as much this year. At this point in the season, you can't go full speed and tackle as much as you might want to, but it's like that all across the country.
"We did some things today against Anthony Brown and Cedric Logan to try to work against true speed in the open field. That will help us. But, sometimes in games, it's a matter of getting run over. You have to be physical enough that that doesn't happen."
Nutt said there were some drills done Tuesday that put more emphasis on open-field situations.
"We worked in the open space a little more today," Nutt said. "We had a good day and improved. Our guys wrapped up and played hard."
The practice started with a "bull in the ring" drill that matched an offensive player with the ball against a defensive player in a tackling drill. Players were tackled to the ground in a spirited session. The spirit of that drill carried over during several sessions in 11-on-11 drills where offenisve players and defensive players hit full speed with sometimes a tussel or two afterwards. Brandon Kennedy leveled Fred Bledsoe on one block in team session with the offensive cheering. Ernest Mitchell and Gene Perry went after each other pretty hard after another play with both sides cheering effort.
"I liked the spirit of this practice," Nutt said. "With what this team has experienced lately, I think what they showed today is that they aren't going to let go of the rope. They are going to continue to battle and play hard."
Tuesday Grid Report, 11/9
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