Special Teams Still Up For Grabs

FAYETTEVILLE -- Some roster spots might be working themselves out after more than a week of football drills at Arkansas. Others, though, are still up in the air --specifically in the special teams department.

At placekicker, senior Chris Balseiro has the leg up on his counterparts given his experience. But with youngsters such as true freshman Will Moore and redshirt freshmen Drew Combs and Brian Vavra also fighting for the job, it could be a closer call than most would expect.

"He (Balseiro) has probably been the most consistent," Arkansas special teams coach James Shibest said. "But I think we've got some good young legs. They're still a little nervous early and we've just got to get them to relax. So there's four young ones that are pretty good. I just don't know if they'll be able to handle all of this mentally."

While Balseiro might have the most security in his No. 1 spot on the depth chart, the battle for starting punter duties seems to be a much closer call.

Junior Jacob Skinner and sophomore Jeremy Davis both saw action in 2004 and the two could go down to the wire in determining who will handle the job this fall.

Although Shibest said it was too close to call right now, Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt indicated after Tuesday's practice that Skinner held the small lead.

"Jacob right now is ahead," Nutt said. "Of course, we know he's got a great leg. He just needs to be more consistent."

There's also a spot up for grabs in the punt return category. And Shibest believes finding a solid punt returner is still the biggest concern in the special teams.

"I think with kickoff returns, we'll be fine," Shibest said. "We're worried about punt catcher right now and who it's going to be. We've done some live punt stuff in the last few days and we didn't catch the ball very well. And that's the first thing, whether we make somebody miss or not, we've got to secure the catch.

"There's four or five guys, but we're still a little shaky there, to be honest. And somebody has to step up and do it."

Nutt said junior Michael Coe was getting a strong look at punt returner along with junior Cedric Washington and freshman Reggie Fish. Both Shibest and Nutt also said decisions on the special teams depth chart would be made within the next week.

"I'm hoping either the middle of next week or this weekend if somebody clearly stands out," Shibest said. "But the competition, they need that every day."

Bad Day At The Office
Nutt didn't mince words after Tuesday's two-hour workout. According to the Razorbacks coach, it was clearly not one of the team's better days on the practice field.

"We've got to have a better practice than we did today," Nutt said. "Our offense really was sluggish, sloppy and too many mistakes. We didn't break the huddle right, we felt a little too sorry for ourselves at times where you get in that 11th or 12th practice and start feeling sorry for yourself and you can't do it. You can't have any mental errors, you've got to come off the ball at good pad level and we did none of those things today.

"Terrible, and we've got to do much better."

Injury Update
Arkansas was without six players who were still nursing injuries Tuesday. Of the six, four were part of the offensive backfield as De'Arrius Howard (groin), Brandon Kennedy (ankle), Korey Sutton (knee) and Michael Smith (hamstring) were all unable to participate in afternoon drills.

Howard -- who had been running with the first-team offense -- strained his groin during Monday's morning workout but could return to action today.

"I'm going to try and jog in the morning and get loose," Howard said. "And tomorrow evening I'm going to try and go out there.

"I think it's a strain. It's a deep strain and I'd be a fool to go out there and push it or something. But I'm going to try and go out there (this) morning and get loose."

Also missing practice Tuesday were defensive lineman Marcus Harrison (bruised shin) and cornerback Darius Vinnett (knees).

Fan Day
Although most practices have been closed to the media and public, fans will get their best chance to see the team before the season starts when the 2005 Razorback Football Fan Day takes place Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. There will also be an open scrimmage at 6 p.m. and fans are being asked to enter Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium through gates 1, 6 and 10 with seating available on the stadium's west side.

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