Johnson Slated For Second Start

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas sophomore John Johnson is slated to make his second consecutive start at the husky position when the Hogs play at Mississippi State on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Johnson had three tackles, all solos, in his debut in last Saturday's 35-3 win against Ole Miss.

"I thought he gave us a little bit of an extra spark," said Hogs defensive coordinator Dave Wommack. "He played with some real energy. He hadn't played a whole lot, but on the few plays that came his way I thought he did a real solid job for us."

Johnson got the nod last week when starter John Jackson was caught loafing on a play during film study of the 35-32 loss at South Carolina on Nov. 6.

"It's always good to start and get some playing time," said Johnson, who has 10 tackles this season. "I'm happy to be in there, but I'll be even happier if we come out of there with a win."

Wommack said Johnson's quickness makes him an asset on the defense.

"His speed makes a real difference," Wommack said. "He'll start, but we'll play both of them."

In last week's game, Johnson said he was "energized and pumped up" before the game, but calmed down after a few plays. He said the experience has taught him a lot.

"If you blink, the linemen will be on you and everything will go by you," Johnson said. "I learned a little more of how to keep your eyes in the right place, but the main thing I learned is to stay away from linemen.

"If they get their hands on you, it's pretty much over."

Singing Byrd's Song
Former Arkansas recruit Marvin Byrdsong is a junior at Mississippi State and the Bulldogs' leading returning tackler last season has been moved from linebacker to defensive end.

"Our entire linebacking corps had not played well other than his performance against LSU and Rico Bennett's performance against Tulane," said MSU coach Sylvester Croom. "They've been average so during the open week, we decided to make the switch.

"Byrd is a natural pass rusher so that's why we're looking at him at end."

Byrdsong, a junior from Longview, Texas, who's simply called '"Byrd" by teammates, has had career days against Arkansas. In two games, he has made 20 tackles against the Hogs.

During the final days of his recruitment, Byrdsong's final choices came down to Arkansas, Oklahoma and Mississippi State. His brother, Shawn Byrdsong, was at MSU while one of his childhood friends, Fred Talley, was at Arkansas.

But Talley was involved in a bar room incident around that time and opposing recruiters -- not from Mississippi State -- told his mother not to send her son to Fayetteville as it was a racist town, saying that Talley's incident was race related.

"They convinced my mom of it," Byrdsong said. "And I really liked Arkansas and my mom really liked Arkansas. I really thought I might go there. I still remember all the coaches and really liked them.

"But in the end, I just closed my eyes and picked one really. I just thought Mississippi State was the right place for me."

Byrdsong, who's listed as a reserve at defensive end against Arkansas, is tied for third on the team with 50 tackles, including two for a loss.

Thompson Resigns
On Wednesday, former Arkansas defensive coordinator and East Carolina head coach John Thompson announced his resignation, effective at the end of the season.

"This is a bottom line business based on bottom line results and the simple fact is we didn't win enough games," Thompson said. "We didn't have enough time, but we planted a lot of seeds."

The Forrest City native and 1978 Central Arkansas graduate led the Pirates to a 1-11 record last season and a 2-7 mark this fall. They play Memphis at home Saturday.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt commented on the resignation after Wednesday's workout.

"You hate to see anybody step down in the middle of the year," Nutt said. "It means things aren't going well and you hate it. You hate it for the assistants, their families.

"It's a tough, tough profession and it seems like it gets a little tougher each year."

Wommack coached with Thompson at Southern Mississippi before Thompson was hired by Arkansas in January of 2000.

"I just hate it for John," said Wommack, who talked with Thompson earlier in the day. "John's a good guy and a good friend of mine and you hate it for any coach in any profession.

"But that's also the nature of the business."

Robinson Expects To Play
Hogs reserve linebacker Michael Robinson did not dress for Wednesday's practice with a sprained quadriceps muscle.

"They're just taking the next couple of days as precautionary measures, making sure I don't reinjure it," Robinson said. "Hopefully, by Saturday, I'll be to be able to go. I expect to be ready."

Robinson missed the first half of the season after suffering a seizure during a preseason practice. He lost nearly 20 pounds during the ordeal, but is back up to his original playing weight.

Jones Healthy
Hogs quarterback Matt Jones sat out some of the team drills early in Wednesday's workout, but was able to complete the second half of practice at full speed after reaggravating his injured hamstring he suffered against Ole Miss.

"He's getting better," Nutt said. "He's getting a little bit looser and is getting better."

Nutt said he expects Jones to start Saturday's game.

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