Markuson Tries Tubbs At Guard

FAYETTEVILLE -- A day into preseason practices and Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Markuson already is tinkering with his starting five.

In an effort to utilize each player's assets, Markuson flip-flopped the right side of the line by moving Zac Tubbs to guard and Robert Felton to tackle.

"It's a little experimentation," Markuson said. "And it's not etched in stone. We've got to get pads on and get in our offense and see. But for the first day at it, it looked pretty good."

Felton started at right tackle for the final four games of 2004 after Tubbs suffered a season-ending injury (broken right ankle) during a mid-week practice in October. The versatile Felton also started one game at left tackle and earned playing time as a reserve guard earlier in the season.

The nature of Tubbs' injury warranted Monday's switch and Markuson believes playing the 6-foot-6, 360-pound senior at guard will ease the pressure on his reconstructed ankle.

"Zac was always good out there (at tackle)," Markuson said. "But the guy had a pretty good injury and he's fighting through a pretty good deal. And in there (at guard), he doesn't have to worry as much about all that space over there on that edge. Plus, pushing off with his injury, it might be better that he's not having to use it as much to push off."

Neither player seems to mind the switch. In fact, both welcomed it Monday.

"Felton has quicker feet than I do and I'm much stronger than he is, so we just kind of wanted to switch it up and see how well it works," Tubbs said. "Last year, Felton did a great job when I got hurt and really became comfortable at playing tackle. I always thought I would be a pretty good guard and if this works out, it could really turn out to be a better fit for both of us."

In Arkansas' offensive scheme, blocking assignments are mostly the same across the front, other than on a few pass plays.

Felton, a 6-4, 314-pound sophomore, clearly is behind Monday's change and said the only difference is in the defenders.

"Being on the edge, you have to have quick feet," Felton said. "The main difference is those guys on the edge are just a tad bit faster. You have to have a little quickness to get on them. Don't get me wrong, those guys in the middle are quick, too, but they're a little bigger and not quite as fast.

"I certainly hope this is what we do. We know coach Markuson will have the last word, but me and Tubbs have been talking about it and think this will be good for us and good for the team."

Heated Opener
Only three Razorbacks -- all linemen -- missed action during Monday's opening practice because of being overheated.

"The sun got us today," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "We gave them seven days off and some of the bigger guys struggled a little bit. But we'll keep adding to it and running them more and more each day."

None of the newcomers were among the walking winded as most reported in excellent shape. Freshman offensive lineman Jose Valdez, a 6-6, 305-pounder from St. Francis, Wisc., actually ran 10 yards ahead of his group during conditioning.

"It was everything I expected from the first day," said Darren McFadden, a tailback from Pulaski Oak Grove. "I feel like (the freshmen) were right about where we should be right now physically. I mean, I still felt strong at the end (of practice)."

Since conditioning wasn't a problem, the biggest adjustment for the freshmen involved the speed of the game.

"It was a humbling experience coming out here and going up against some of these guys," said Marcus Shavers, an All-American defensive end from Allen, Texas. "My job is to come in and contribute as much as I can and the thing for me to do right now is to learn everything I can as fast as I can because I'm four years behind some of these guys right now.

"But I'm doing my best to catch up by learning every day, so I think I'm going to be all right."

Herring Gets Defensive
At least two freshmen linebackers, Tyrell Graham and Freddie Fairchild, spent extra time working with the second team defense.

First-year defensive coordinator Reggie Herring fielded several questions about the newcomers, but declined to pass judgment on any of them after only one two-hour practice in shorts and helmets.

"It's just too early at linebacker," Herring said. "The one thing I do see is Sam (Olajubutu) and Pierre (Brown) are light years ahead of the rest of them. And then there's (Weston) Dacus and some talented freshman. But it's way too early to talk about these freshmen and give an analysis on them right now."

Herring did admit that the freshman pair -- and maybe a few others -- will have to be relied on for depth since the Hogs are thin at linebacker.

"The one thing I do feel about Tyrell Graham and Freddie Fairchild is I know they're instinctive and I know they're love for the game is there," Herring said. "I know they can play linebacker and eventually, they'll get it. When? I don't know."

Grid Bits
Freshman De'Andre Bryant, a 6-6, 205-pounder from Dunwoody, Ga., spent the first half of Monday's workout at linebacker, but has been moved to safety ... Quarterback Robert Johnson's brother, Rashard Johnson, attended Monday's workout in street clothes and the 6-4, 190-pound receiver plans to walk-on for the Razorbacks ... Signee Michael Bibbs, a linebacker from Atlanta, was absent and likely won't be cleared academically, according to sources ... Today's practice is open to the public and scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.

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