Although it was expected, the starting quarterback spot officially became Robert Johnson's after Sunday's short University of Arkansas football workout.
That's when Razorback head coach Houston Nutt told Johnson, a 6-2, 212-pound redshirt sophomore that he had won the job after a week of preseason practice with redshirt freshman Alex Mortensen currently running second team.
"After watching film after a week we are going to put Robert Johnson in that first slot as the starter," Nutt said. "Alex Mortensen will be behind him and we'll just keep going. We feel about how far he (Johnson) has come. He is doing some things now that he didn't do in the spring, he's been accurate.
"Like we told him, we're giving you this because you've earned it, but you still have to come to work every day," Nutt added. You got some guys right there on your heels and they are going to be work even harder. We're excited about his progress, but yet I still think we can get better. I have ever belief he will come out and go to work...but just because you are the starter doesn't mean you can take any off days and I don't think he will do that."
He had planned to make the decision a couple weeks into camp, but Nutt said Johnson accelerated the process with his play.
"He sped up the process," Nutt said. "He has more confidence. He has more poise and is much more active then he was this spring. He put our team in the end zone and you feel good about that.
"...I like his demeanor he has had all through camp," Nutt continued. "He has come in, rolled his sleeves up and working hard and he wants to help the team. That is the attitude you want."
Johnson was 10-for-19 passing last season for 209 yards and 3 touchdowns (one a 74-yarder) with one interception while serving as the backup to starter Matt Jones and playing in six games. He also rushed 10 times for 37 yards.
"There is a confidence level now," Nutt said. "He is better in the huddle. You can see when there is pressure he is doing things better. He is getting rid of the ball, not holding it. He hasn't thrown any interceptions the last couple of days and is just really taking care of it. We are real pleased with that part of it."
Johnson now has just under three weeks to be ready to lead his team into battle Sept. 3 against visiting Missouri State in the home opener at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
"He has been here three years, been here longer than anyone," Nutt said. "We told Robert that you've earned this, now go to work. Continue to work hard because Alex Mortensen is going to continue working hard, Cole Barthel's going to keep working hard. Casey Dick had a very good day today. I really think there are some guys that are really competing."
Nutt is high on Mortensen, a redshirt freshman from Georgia who is the son of NFL reporter Chris Mortensen.
Alex Mortensen has gotten us in and out of the huddle and his checks have been excellent," Nutt said.
Barthel was in the Atlanta Braves' baseball organization and did not play football for four years.
"Cole knows that four years being with baseball hurt him," Nutt said. "He is behind. We still have a lot of faith in him, but right now - it is obvious to us - that the guy that is moving the club is Robert Johnson."
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Nutt also noted that starting right guard Zac Tubbs, who was injured in Saturday's practice, did indeed have a high ankle sprain and would miss some time with junior Tyler Morgan sliding into that first-team slot while Tubbs is out.
Razorback coaches were worried about Tubbs - especially after watching Saturday's injury happen on film.
"Boy, you just hate to get him hurt," said Nutt, who lost Tubbs to a season-ending injury midway through the season. "But at least I'm glad it was on the good foot, the one that didn't have surgery."
Nutt would like to know specifically how long Tubbs is going to be out, but it's too hard to tell right now.
"We just don't know," Nutt said. "Saw it on film and he got it tangled up and sprained it pretty good. Ankles are hard to heal."
Nutt and offensive line coach Mike Markuson have elevated Morgan to first-team status right now at right guard with junior Chase Pressley and true freshman Colin Tucker also getting snaps.
"They are all doing a good job," Markuson said. "It's a damper and puts some pressure on you, but that is why you recruit and why you coach."
Morgan, who also praised true freshman tackle Jose Valdez, gets first crack at the right spot.
"Tyler has come a long way," Markuson said. "He is doing a lot of good things out there fundamentally. He has taken coaching and he is doing what we ask. He has a great attitude and is doing a great job."
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UA defensive coordinator Reggie Herring was not happy with his unit and had them put in extra conditioning work on Sunday after the offense had gone in.
The offense was judged the victor in Saturday's scrimmage even though the defense did have four turnovers.
"We have experienced that before and the defense always comes back," Nutt said. "I am not worried about that. I know that I have a lot of confidence in our coaching staff and get them running to the ball."
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Missing practice due to injuries were defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, cornerbacks Michael Grant and Darius Vinnett and walk on tight end Lance Thompson - all who are expected back soon.
Freshman tailback Darren McFadden did practice as did fellow freshman back Michael Smith on a limited basis.
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Arkansas will practice at 9:15 a.m. on Monday morning and then at 3:30 or 5:30 p.m. as two-a-days continue.
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