Saturday Grid Update, 8/13

The Hogs practiced twice, but not as long as they wanted after some injuries hit in the aftrnoon workout Saturday as the first week of fall drills came to an end.

Houston Nutt cut short Saturday's scrimmage after a couple of injuries hit early in the afternoon workout. Offensive guard Zac Tubbs hurt his "good ankle" in a goal line scrimmage and cornerback Michael Grant broke a finger.

"We would have gone (another 20 minutes or so)," said Nutt, the Arkansas head coach. "We just shut it down after those injuries. Depth in the offensive line is critical."

Tubbs was able to walk off the field on his own power and then was taken to the hospital for X-rays of the ankle. The release from the training room 30 minutes later said there was no fracture and the injury was labeled "a high right ankle sprain." He will be listed as "day-to-day."

It was an injury to what Nutt called the lineman's good ankle. Tubbs missed the final half of last season and all of spring ball after tearing ligaments and breaking a bone in his lower leg last year.

"I guess that's the good news," Nutt said. "It was the good ankle and he did walk off. We hope he's going to be okay."

Nutt said if Tubbs can't play, the battle at right guard will be between Jonathan Luigs, Tyler Morgan and Chase Pressley. The coach said all three have been doing some encouraging things in practice. He said Pressley "has really been coming, but we trust those other two, too."

Robert Felton, now entrenched at right tackle, said he was hopeful that Tubbs would be fine. Felton said, "He acted like he was okay when he left the field walking without anyone helping him. I bet they X-ray for precautions. He's going to be back. I feel it."

The other major development Saturday was the announced separation at quarterback. Asked about the QB spot, Nutt said, "Robert Johnson is on his way." He stoppd short of naming Johnson the clear first teamer. Nutt said he wanted to "talk to my staff first."

However, he said it was clear that Johnson had practiced better than the other QB candidates in the first week.

"Robert Johnson is throwing with better velocity," Nutt said. "Alex Mortensen is the next one. He makes the huddle calls and seems to do better in the scrimmages. He's been more accurate in pressure situations than he has in the one-on-one drills so that was good to see."

Concerning Cole Barthel, Nutt said, "He closed the spring with a lot of confidence and you liked that, but it was with a limited playbook then. We've thrown the whole playbook at him this week and I'm sure he's just trying real hard. He's going to be fine in time. We just can't rush him. He's been away from it for a long time and he'll get there. I still think he's going to be a fine quarterback for us in time."

Nutt continued to praise freshman tailback Felix Jones after the afternoon drill, the Tulsa Washington product who has put together a fine week of workouts.

"He's just so tough," Nutt said. "He is very hard to bring down and he's been the toughest of all of them so far. He makes guys miss and he has been durable."

Backfield coach Danny Nutt said comparing his running style to former Dallas Cowboys great Emmitt Smith was "fair." He said Jones was "mentally tough and keeps making big runs every single practice. He had some more good ones today. We didn't use him in the goal line stuff today because that's Peyton Hillis' bread and butter. He's our jack hammer down there and he looked good today. We didn't have Brandon Kennedy (sore ankle) in there today on the goal line, so we moved Jared Hicks back to that spot and he looked great. That's a big old body on a linebacker and Hicks is looking like he's back in great shape with those shoulders. I loved him."

The staff still likes senior De'Arrius Howard, too.

"De'Arrius stepped it up today," Danny Nutt said. "He's our leader back there. He ran it well today. The sweeps, stretch and the power stuff, he's real good at. He's our best back, I think."

Houston Nutt said, "Yes, and I think seeing Felix Jones has made De'Arrius hit it up a notch. Everyone out here has noticed Felix. You see what he's going to be like and it pushes all of them."

Darren McFadden, after receiving good news on the MRI of a knee strain, dressed in full pads Saturday afternoon, but didn't scrimmage.

"The trainers want him to jog a day or so," Danny Nutt said. "It upset Darren because he doesn't want to get behind. I'm hearing the same thing from Michael Smith (hamstring). He wants to be out there, too. I like to hear that, but we are being careful with them."

The head coach seemed pleased with the overall performance of the offense Saturday. He indicated that the defense probably didn't have the kind of day that the coaches and players wanted.

That was clear when the defensive players were among the last to leave the field after long discussions with their position coaches. Safety Randy Kelly had a long look on his face as he trudged by reporters. He said he'd prefer not to do interviews.

"I think Reggie (Herring, defensive coordinator) would tell you that they didn't have their best day," Nutt said. "They kind of dove in and didn't play technique over there today. I think they were trying to play hard and fast, but they have to maintain their technique, too. That's why we need more practice. We'll get there. I like what they are doing, but it's going to take time."

* * *

Arkansas worked for a little over one hour Saturday morning in what amounted to a walk-through for fall practices first scrimmage set for the afternoon. The Hogs went inside Walker Pavilion for the morning workout.

Coaches exited in fast fashion afterwards for a quick lunch before position meetings ahead of the 2 p.m. afternoon workout.

One of the major fall moves appears to be taking hold with Zac Tubbs doing well at right guard and Robert Felton settling in at right tackle. Both said they liked the move. In fact, Tubbs said, "I love it. This is great."

Tubbs said one of the major differences is that he has "a man on my nose every play." Usually, it's been Marcus Harrison or Keith Jackson.

"In our defense, you know you've got a tough one right in front of you," Tubbs said. "Those guys can play.

"At tackle, you don't always have a man on your nose. He may be an end out wide or an outside linebacker. I kinda like what I'm doing right now. I think this is going to stick. My (left) ankle is doing just fine."

Felix Jones, freshman tailback, continues to excel in both the eyes of the coaches and players. He had another solid workout Friday and has been the rave of preseason camp.

However, senior tailback De'Arrius Howard has been solid, too. He tested his surgically rebuilt shoulder when the Hogs put on full pads Friday with solid results.

"It felt great," Howard said. "I did the tackling drills and the middle drill yesterday and it was good. It's stiff some and I probably can't throw any passes just yet, but I have good feeling in my fingers and hands and can hold the ball tight. That was what I was worried about last spring because my fingers were numb some of the time after the surgery.

"I'm probably still popping loose some scar tissue from time to time and I feel that, but it's all been goo. I'm looking forward to the scrimmage this afternoon to test it a little more. I like how it feels right now."

Safeties coach Chris Vaughn likes the progress of his group. With backup Desmond Williams progressing, the Hogs moved true freshman Kevin Thornton to outside linebacker late this week.

"Kevin did well, but he might can get on the field a little earlier at linebacker," Vaughn said. "He wants to play and knows he can help quicker there. He's doing well."

Keith Jackson continues to lose weight. He's dipped to 272 on some days this week, although he usually gains some water over night and reports at 275 for the next day.

"I am so much quicker and I can run all day," Jackson said. "You just can't believe the difference."

Senior end Clarke Moore, who was married in the summer, found another wedding present from a teammate in his locker after practice Saturday morning.

"Still coming in," he laughed. "My parents are still bringing up more each time they visit, too."

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