Whether the University of Arkansas can establish a running game against Mississippi State or not on Saturday is up in the air, but we found out Thursday that the head football coach can still scoot.
After a workout that lasted a little over an hour inside the UA's indoor workout area, Razorback head coach Houston Nutt sprinted from his team huddle into a waiting vehicle that whisked him away to watch his daughter's junior basketball game.
That left his assistants the task of having to deal with the media and come up with something interesting to say about a Thursday workout that was just a matter of polishing up the offensive and defensive game plans and going over special teams.
"It was a great week of preparation, a great mental day today and the guys really flew around," Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Markuson said. "They have a lot to play for and they know that."
Arkansas (4-5, 2-4) needs to beat Mississippi State Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and LSU the following Friday to be bowl eligible.
Markuson was certainly eager to talk about how his offensive line - featuring SEC offensive lineman of the week Kyle Roper and new starter Robert Felton - had stepped it up lately.
Felton again worked at guard with the first-team line after doing well since taking over as a starter.
"It's been good," Markuson said. "We have a whole menu of plays and we went back to some things that we have had success with before when we played South Carolina. Guys are playing with confidence - the front and the backs are. I think when all phases are hitting we can do a lot of things.
"We've been more downhill," Markuson continued. "We put two plays in that we have used in the past and had success at South Carolina and just carried it over to Ole Miss and it even got better."
It certainly helps that junior running back De'Arrius Howard has re-emerged as a ballcarrier in the last few games.
Running backs coach Danny Nutt said Howard - who has looked quick and the hit hole fast in practice on Thursday - has turned it on mentally.
"The last three weeks he has just made up his mind to get it done," Nutt said. "He's watched more film. It's been all him. I'd like to take the credit for it, but it's all him. We had a one-on-one three weeks and he told me he was going to go hard. He's been staying low and running hard."
One of the UA's weaknesses this year has been its secondary play, but that improved in last week's 35-3 win over Ole Miss and d-back coach Bobby Allen was obviously pleased to see it.
Although redshirting freshman wideout Cedric Logan still gets deep on the first team defense too much, you can see improvement in practice.
"What I have seen over the last few weeks is a general understanding of what we need to do and how we need to do it," Allen said. "I think it has to with the amount of reps and also with our confidence starting to come."
It's been obvious that tackling was an area they needed to improve in, but since this has been a non-contact week Allen had to get a little inventive.
"Since we didn't go out (in full) pads this week, I got a bag and we really worked hard on wrapping up and running with a tackle instead of just diving," Allen said. "You get this late in he season you don't want to beat your guys up, but you hope they know the importance of making a play the right way now."
Arkansas starting quarterback Matt Jones did very little again in practice on Thursday by design.
"He'll be at full speed ready to go on Saturday," Markuson said. "Full speed."
UA Grid Report, 11-18
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