Banged-Up Offensive Line Forces Practice Changes

FAYETTEVILLE -- Left tackle Robert Felton came up with a pretty catchy nickname for Arkansas' injury-depleted offensive line Thursday.

"We're down to the 'Ferocious Five,'" Felton said. "That's what I call it."

The problem is, the ferocious five is really all the Razorbacks have left.

Arkansas' spring schedule was thrown off course after numerous injuries made it impossible to field more than one offensive line Thursday. Coach Houston Nutt said the Hogs have scaled down their practice routine to accommodate the thin group and wiped out plans to scrimmage Saturday.

"The schedule before we started spring was to scrimmage (Thursday) or (today) as well as Saturday," Nutt said. "We won't be able to do that with five offensive linemen. (Practice is) still physical, but we can't tackle to the ground now.

"We're just going to have to do the best we can with what we have."

Arkansas knew it would be without injured tackles Zac Tubbs (ankle) and Cody Green (back) when spring drills began. Left tackle Tony Ugoh also was excused to participate with the track and field team.

But Nutt didn't count on losing James Johnson (foot), Jonathan Luigs (lacerated calf), Chase Pressley (concussion) and Matt Gilbow (sprained knee) to injuries after seven practices.

"I hope there's not a curse on us," Felton said. "But right now, it looks like there's a curse on us. (The rest) just have to step up and have to play injured. We're all nicked and bruised up. But Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, they don't care."

Instead of patching together two units -- one would've included walk-ons and tight ends -- Arkansas practiced with a first-team line of left tackle Robert Felton, left guard Stephen Parker, center Kyle Roper, right guard Tyler Morgan and right tackle Nate Garner throughout Thursday's practice. Backup center Skye Peterson dressed, but was limited to a few snaps after undergoing off-season hernia surgery.

Arkansas typically gets in 50 consecutive plays during its 11-on-11 team session, but the format drained the depleted line Tuesday. So the Hogs changed plans and kept linemen fresh by splitting the 11-on-11 period into three sessions Thursday.

The Hogs worked through 12 snaps and gave linemen a five-minute break. They got in 12 more, took another break and wrapped up with a 14-play team session.

Unfortunately, Nutt said the format limits the amount of quality work the Hogs will get on a daily basis, cutting 100-play sessions to 50 or 55. But the good news, Nutt said, is it gives all three quarterbacks a chance to work with the first-team unit.

"It's unfair to move (tight end) Lance Thompson to left tackle and expect him to pick up blitzes and give a fair shot to the quarterback," Nutt said. "Instead of doing that and hodge-podging an offensive line, you keep your five guys in there and separate team (drills) and let the quarterbacks at least be with the first-team line."

Arkansas also will miss out on valuable scrimmage work in game-like situations the rest of the spring because of the injuries, but Felton believes the five linemen turned in an impressive workout Thursday.

Nutt said quarterback Alex Mortensen also turned in his best performance and is confident the Hogs can improve as long as Arkansas' "Ferocious Five" stays intact.

"I was happy to count that five linemen came on, five linemen went off (Thursday) in one piece," Nutt said. "That was a positive."

Red and White Game Changes
Nutt is hoping to have Luigs and Pressley back on the field next week, but injuries have forced the Hogs to alter plans for the Red and White Game on April 16.

The Hogs will hold a scrimmage for its final workout of spring drills, but Nutt said it won't be a "full-blown game."

But the scaled-down scrimmage isn't expected to change the school's plans for the day-long Razorfest, which includes a seven-on-seven alumni game and musical acts.

"With a depleted offensive line, we're probably going to have a little bit of practice first," Nutt said. "We will scrimmage for our fans. We will keep Razorfest going. We want that to happen. It just won't be a 60-, 75-play game that we planned on.

"We're going to get there one day. But we still want our fans to come. It's going to be a great day and we're still going to scrimmage."

Extra Points
Redshirt freshman defensive end Michael Tate (knee) returned to practice after missing two days. Tate was injured during Arkansas' 60-play scrimmage last Saturday. ... Defensive tackle Fred Bledsoe remained sidelined after sustaining a concussion during the scrimmage. Nutt is hoping the sophomore will return to practice next Monday. ... Former Arkansas and current Seattle Seahawks safety Ken Hamlin attended Thursday's practice with a sling on his left arm. Hamlin, who ranks second on Arkansas' all-time tackles list (381), underwent off-season shoulder surgery and said he'll miss Seattle's mini-camp this spring.

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