Nutt Promises To Get Physical

FAYETTEVILLE -- Lack of depth resulted in a lack of hitting during Arkansas' preseason practices a year ago.

With more depth and less concern about injuries, coach Houston Nutt promised during Arkansas' Media Day that there will be physical practices over the next few weeks as the Razorbacks prepare for the season opener against Missouri State on Sept. 3.

"We're going to tackle every single day," Nutt said. "I asked (defensive coordinator Reggie) Herring to tackle a dummy or tackle somebody every single day and so he'll do that. That's his nature, he likes to do it.

"We may not tackle to the ground, but it will be extremely physical. We've got to find out. We've got to get some questions answered in a hurry, so we'll have two good solid scrimmages, at least."

The team won't don full pads until Friday and the first live scrimmage will be a goal-line simulation on Saturday. That will be the first true tests for quarterbacks Robert Johnson, Cole Barthel and Alex Mortensen, who are battling for the starting job.

For the first time in his eight seasons at Arkansas, Nutt said the quarterbacks won't wear green, non-contact jerseys.

"When you had (former quarterbacks) Matt (Jones) and a Clint Stoerner, I wasn't really worried about them handling the pressure of third-and-8 because I knew they could handle it," Nutt said. "We're going to have team pass (drills) and there's bullets and missiles going off. We want to see how that quarterback responds and handles it.

"It's about executing under pressure. We've got to find out which guys can do that consistently."

Nutt said the quarterbacks won't always be live targets, but added he wants to give his young quarterbacks a true game-like feel during practice.

Johnson saw limited action in six games as Jones' backup last season. Mortensen and Barthel haven't taken a snap in college.

"I want them to be able to see, adjust and make checks," Nutt said. "I'm not worried about everybody staying away from the quarterbacks every single day. They're going to get hit ... And we've got to see who gets back up."

Utility Man
It's clear Peyton Hillis will be used in multiple roles in Arkansas' offense after the sophomore lined up at tailback, fullback, tight end and H-back during the first two practices.

"I love the ball in his hands," Nutt said. "You can hand it to him from seven yards. You can hand it to him from three and a half or four yards. You can move him and I think we can create some mismatches, some disadvantages there.

"He's going to be used in a variety of ways and won't come off the field very much."

Hillis seems open to the change, even though he was adamant about playing tailback during his recruitment. But, like a lot of players, he's embraced a team-first mentality heading into this season.

"Beggars can't be choosers," Hillis said. "If I want to play, I'll play wherever they put me. It doesn't really matter as long as I'm on the field, helping us win games.

"Whether I'm tailback, fullback, tight end or receiver, I'll do my best to produce on every play."

Quarterbacks Watch
Johnson didn't receive as many repetitions as Barthel and Mortensen did on Monday.

Johnson, who still was sharp on most of his passes, had to be stretched out by trainers late in practice after experiencing stiffness in his right side. The sophomore underwent hernia surgery in June and hasn't fully recovered.

"It hurts pretty bad right now," Johnson said. "It just sometimes gets to the point where I can tell that all my strength is not back yet. I'm only about 80 percent (healthy) and it still hurts when I try do some things.

"I've just get to get past it and I'll be fine."

Nutt said Barthel and Mortensen both "threw the ball better" Tuesday. He plans to name a starter by the end of next week's workouts.

Special Thanks
Nutt opened Tuesday's press conference by recognizing a few Razorbacks whose careers ended because of injuries. But all three still are involved in the program.

Landon Leach, who had two shoulder injuries, is helping out with special teams as a student coach. Also, injury-plagued linemen James Johnson and Derek Moore are helping with the offensive and defensive lines, respectively.

"Their dreams have been cut off in one way, but they're still helping our program," Nutt said.

Nutt also said center Skye Peterson has hung up his cleats because of injuries. Peterson is helping coach offensive linemen at Farmington High School.

"All of these guys are going to graduate if they haven't graduated already," Nutt said. "Sometimes their names get thrown by the wayside because they're not playing and running through the 'A' but I wanted to mention those guys."

Grid Bits
Tuesday's heat left several players suffering from muscle cramps after conditioning work. Two players, tight end Wes Murphy and left guard Chase Pressley, had to be carted to the training room with severe leg cramps ... Reserve left guard Cody Green, a 6-6, 325-pounder, is expected to return to practice today after undergoing lower back surgery on Feb. 1 ... Tuesday's practice was the final open workout of the season. Beginning today, Arkansas' practices will be close to the media and public.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories