The University of Arkansas started putting in its game plan for the Sept. 3 opener with visiting Missouri State in on Wednesday and did so with a starting quarterback getting healthier by the minute.
Sophomore Robert Johnson, coming back from a groin injury, led his team down the field for a field goal to cap off a situational scrimmage.
That combined with Michael Grant's late pick off of freshman quarterback Casey Dick had Razorback head coach Houston Nutt pleased with the workout - a day after chastising his team for a very average one.
"I think we motivated them a little bit," Nutt said, "but they know they had to do better. They want to do good, but sometimes they feel sorry for themselves and when you have a small senior class, you lack a little leadership there. You have just got to challenge them."
Nutt noted that he was pleased to see how Johnson - who missed all of last week - was progressing and that they felt very comfortable with his availability for the Missouri State game.
"It has been a slow improvement, but it's like today he went through everything and finished out and did everything he needed to," Nutt said. "It didn't slow him down. He can not run full speed right no, but he is almost there. Whether it is 70 or 80 percent I don't know. I just know how he can move. He gets the ball to the tailbacks well and he can sprint out. He is doing some good things."
"I got to go with the trainers," Nutt said. "Dean Weber has a lot of experience. We ask that very question and he said he is strong enough with the rehab that he has done that he need out here practicing."
There were some other walking wounded with tight ends Jared Hicks and Wes Murphy as well as offensive line Zac Tubbs and Nate Garner all not going through the practice.
Hicks suffered a high ankle sprain earlier this week.
"We didn't have Hicks today," Nutt said. "He is probably going to be out at least a couple of weeks. Marcus Winston, Mason Templeton, Lance Thompson - those guys were taking up the slack for Murphy and Hicks."
Garner had actually been working at first team right tackle the last couple of days in place of normal starter Robert Felton, who was back in his spot on Wednesday.
Grant, who broke his finger earlier in camp, has come along just fine according to Nutt.
"It's probably not 100 percent, but he is doing a good job with it and is learning to jam up with it," Nutt said. "You don't see any signs that he is trying to let up with that. That shows some maturity right there."
Nutt was asked a question about heralded freshman Marcus Shavers.
"He is going to be a good football player, but he is not as strong as he needs to be with his upper body and that is holding him back. We would love to redshirt him, but it's early and we don't know what is going to happen there. We are just going to keep him coming. He is still learning everyday and giving great effort."
"With Anthony Brown coming on and Zac Snider doing better at defensive end we've got some depth there and the position that Marcus needs to be is inside."
Senior Lerinzo Robinson has been moved to wideout at his request, since his ailing shoulder has kept him from tackling.
"He just wanted to help out the team in any way he could," Nutt said.
That coincides with Dallas Washington being moved from safety to cornerback while Matteral "Red" Richardson has gone from cornerback to safety.
Michael Coe and Darius Vinnett are the first-team corners with Grant, John Johnson and Chris Houston also being counted on.
"Michael Coe's been a warrior so far," Nutt said. "He's been so different from this spring. That's the one guy if you asked who's made the biggest change, it's Michael Coe. His attitude has been excellent."
Arkansas will go through a tough practice on Thursday and then scale back Friday. The Razorbacks are then scheduled to go through a dress rehearsal on Saturday that will be closed and then have a workout on Sunday as they head into game week.
"It's just around the corner," Nutt said. "We've got to keep working hard and getting better every day."
Wednesday Grid Report, 8-23
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