Nutt Hoping To Avoid Knee Replacement

FAYETTEVILLE -- Houston Nutt's left knee is bothering him again.

"There's no cartilage left," Arkansas' coach said this week. "It's bone on bone."

Razorbacks fans may have noticed Nutt favoring the knee a bit more in recent years when he led the team onto the field before games.

"Now it's starting to bend, or bow out," Nutt said. "I'm probably going to have to have knee replacement surgery someday, but I want to play basketball for three more years."

Nutt, who will turn 48 in October, hurt the knee after transferring from Arkansas to Oklahoma State after the 1977 season.

"It was in the spring of 1978," he said. "I had torn some cartilage, but this was my second surgery. My kneecap came out of place in practice. I popped it back in, but a week later I said, 'This ain't right.' So I had surgery.

"Dr. O'Donohoe of Oklahoma City, Joe Namath's doctor, did a great job, and my knee was not a problem."

Not until 15 years later, anyway, when Nutt began feeling some pain.

"Then when I turned 40, I'd feel aches and pains with the change of seasons," he said. "There's just no cartilage."

Nutt hears that some people are starting to receive injections to provide a cushion for the knee.

"It acts like a cartilage," he said.

Maybe in three years, when pickup basketball is out of Nutt's system, technology will allow him to avoid knee replacement.

After several Hogs took some plays off because of the heat during the first two days of practice, Nutt moved Wednesday's workout back to 5:30 p.m. A cloud cover at the start of Wednesday's drills made the weather seem almost bearable.

"This was good for us to be able to move practice down a little bit later in the evening," Nutt said. "It's a little bit cooler. I think we got some more things accomplished. I think we just had one guy fall out, that's (offensive linemen Chase) Pressley right there at the end.

"But we had a good practice today."

The Razorbacks will practice at the same time tonight. He's hoping the Hogs will get in quality work throughout practice instead of buckling late in workouts because of the sweltering heat.

Arkansas will practice in shorts and helmets today before donning full pads for the first time on Friday. The Hogs' first two-a-day practices are scheduled for Saturday.

"I think it's been, to me, the hottest it's been in the last three years," Nutt said. "I think with the new turf, it's really hot."

Cole Barthel, Arkansas' grizzled freshman quarterback from Decatur, Ala., who spent four years playing minor league baseball, had to be reminded why today will be special for him.

It's his 23rd birthday, but in the heat of competition a guy can forget.

"What day is this?" Barthel asked after Tuesday's second UA practice. "Oh, yeah. Well, I don't feel any older. I feel like a freshman."

That was particularly true on Monday, when Barthel threw several passes off target.

"I was uncomfortable the first day," he said. "I don't know if it was having shoulder pads on or what. I was a little sporadic. But (Tuesday) was a little better. I just tried to focus on my reads."

Although much has been made of the battle among Robert Johnson, Alex Mortensen and Barthel for the No. 1 quarterback role, Barthel said, "There's not a lot of tension in it. Everybody pulls for each other."

Freshman quarterback Casey Dick, who got a bit more work after the first day, has impressed onlookers with his arm strength and accuracy.

Arkansas defensive end Anthony Brown wore two big diamond earrings on Media Day, along with jersey No. 91.

"These are my canary yellow earrings," Brown said. "But I wear smaller ones during the games."

As for the No. 91, Brown said, "Coach (Reggie) Herring said I reminded him of a player at North Carolina State who wore that number and made a lot of plays."

Chris Balseiro has led Arkansas in scoring the past two seasons as a placekicker, but it sounds as if he'll have to earn his position again in 2005.

"Will Moore had an outstanding day kicking on Monday," Nutt said Tuesday at Media Day. "The ball comes off his foot in a hurry."

Moore is a 6-foot-1, 185-pound freshman from Searcy.

Jeremy Davis won the punting job from Jacob Skinner last season, and both are vying again.

Skinner has the stronger leg, but struggles for consistency. On Monday, after booming six straight beautiful spirals against no punt rush, he dribbled a 20-yarder off to the left on the first live snap.

Davis, also an outstanding golfer, suffered through a bout of pneumonia this summer but is fine now.

Clark Irwin, a freshman quarterback from Little Rock Central, is in the mix to succeed sure-handed Dowell Loggains as Arkansas' holder.

Reggie Fish, a 5-7, 154-pound freshman flanker from Mesquite, Texas, who showed great elusiveness in summer workouts, continues to make a bid for playing time.

"Reggie dropped a couple the first day, but he gives you an edge on punt returns and quick screens," Nutt said.

Vickiel Vaughn, a UA senior leader at strong safety, has come in for both praise and admonishment so far.

On Media day, Nutt said, "Vickiel reads a quarterback's eyes as well as anyone we've had in a long time."

Later that day, after Vaughn read a quarterback well but missed a chance to intercept a pass, Herring encouraged him to "catch the ball and win the game!"

About Herring, Vaughn says, "He's a great guy and a great coach."

When someone said that Herring had worn a black pullover during the entire first practice in the heat, Hogs linebacker Pierre Brown said, "Nothing he does surprises me. He could have dressed out in a full sweatsuit."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories