Johnson, Monk Already Hooking Up

FAYETTEVILLE -- Quarterback Robert Johnson and receiver Marcus Monk were inseparable this summer, whether going deep for a pass on the practice field or for a bass on Beaver Lake.

"We found out we both liked to fish," Monk said. "My high school coach (Kevin Kyzer, who's now a graduate assistant for the Hogs' basketball team) has a house on the lake. We were always together either passing or lifting and when we got some spare time, we'd go fishing."

Whenever quarterbacks and receivers start hooking up off the field, positives are sure to occur. Monk is the Razorbacks' top returning receiver while Johnson was named the starting quarterback Sunday.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt has noticed them together and said Monk and Johnson remind him of other quarterback-receiver combinations who were tight such as former Razorbacks Clint Stoerner and Anthony Lucas or Mike Cherry and Reggie Swinton -- both of whom Nutt coached at Murray State.

"I think it's very important," Nutt said. "Any time a quarterback and a receiver can bond, build that relationship, they know each other better and it only can help."

Johnson, who said he "outfishes" Monk every time they go, agreed with Nutt about the relationship being beneficial. They've even began to communicate during plays by simply making eye contact.

"It's all about being able to read each other," Johnson said. "It's about chemistry and building trust on and off the field. I know where he's going to be and he knows what I'm going to do in most situations.

"When that happens, nothing can go wrong."

Running Tough
First-year defensive coordinator Reggie Herring addressed the media for the first time since last week and expressed concern about the team's run defense.

"I think our offense is a little tougher running the ball than us right now," Herring said. "We've got some good backs over there that are running hard and are going to make us better tacklers. Right now, the overall toughness as far as defending the run, I think we're a little bit behind schedule.

"As far as pass defense, we've got a lot of tools and a lot of weapons to throw at people that I feel pretty good about."

Another concern has been in the Hogs' lack of focus at times.

"We've been a little bit inconsistent with our team play and effort and execution of assignments," Herring said. "When we are executing our assignments and playing full speed, we've proven we've got a chance to play pretty decent.

"The inconsistency is the battle. Getting us to come out and compete day in, day out."

Herring did applaud the play of a handful players through the first 10 practices. Those mentioned as "standouts" were defensive linemen Anthony Brown, Desmond Sims and Jamaal Anderson, cornerbacks John Johnson and Michael Coe, safeties Elston Forte and Desmond Williams and linebackers Sam Olajubutu, Pierre Brown and Freddie Fairchild, a true freshman whose "doing some things" that should give him a chance to play this season.

Block Party
Inspired by former Razorback Tom Crowder's punt block for the Dallas Cowboys during a recent preseason game, Arkansas has been spending extra time with its punt blocking team during the early session of two-a-day practices.

"Tom Crowder motivated us the other night," Nutt said. "We got that clip and there's some guys that would like to be like Tom. We're working hard on it and, as you could see (Monday morning), we spent about 15 minutes on the technique of blocking a punt, from all different angles, so hopefully we can get that done this year."

Three Hogs blocked punts last season (Elliott Harris, Jamaal Anderson and Matterral Richardson) while not allowing any of their own punts blocked.

Jackson Hole
Sophomore Farod Jackson appears to be more nimble than a year ago. He said it's because he's lost 10 pounds since last season and 25 since he arrived on campus in 2003 as one of the top fullbacks in the country.

"I wanted to be able to get out of the hole quicker," said Jackson, a 6-foot, 226-pounder. "And now, I can go more than three plays at a time, so my stamina has improved.

"I'm lighter, but at the same time, I feel like I've kept my strength about the same as far as when I'm leaning into people."

Jackson, who played in all 11 games a year ago as a fullback and on special teams, is listed as the reserve behind senior Brandon Kennedy. Jackson has one carry for six yards in his career.

Injury Update
After as many as 10 players missed practice time over the weekend, only five were sidelined during Monday's late session.

They were tailbacks De'Arrius Howard (groin) and Korey Sutton (knee), cornerbacks Darius Vinnett (knees) and Michael Grant (broker finger) and offensive tackle Zac Tubbs (ankle).

Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison (bruised shin) and cornerback Chris Houston (groin) returned to practice Monday while Vinnett and Sutton both participated in some individual drills.

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