Thursday Grid Update, 8/25

Quarterback Robert Johnson seems healthy, but Reggie Herring isn't too sure what's going to happen with the inside spots on defense.

Arkansas dodged the hot conditions outside by moving into Walker Pavilion for Thursday's afternoon football workout. Head coach Houston Nutt said the move paid dividends with an improved workout.

"The defense really picked things up and we had to try to match their speed," Nutt said. "It's gotten better the last two days as far as our practices.

"The offense had four or five plays in a row that were good, then we'd have a illegal shift or another penalty, stuff we haven't been having," Nutt said. "We've got to do better than that."

Nutt said it was obvious that the move inside was helpful.

"The change in atmosphere was good," Nutt said. "The heat wasn't as bad. The tradeoff is we didn't get as much in the kicking game.

Nutt said Marc Winston and Mason Templeton got the bulk of the snaps for the second straight day with Jared Hicks and Wes Murphy both out with injuries. Lance Templeton, bothered by injuries early in two-a-days, is starting to get some snaps, too.

"We did okay today there," said Clifton Ealy, tight end coach. "I actually feel pretty good. Jared Hicks jogged on the side today and he is going to be okay, it looks like, maybe good enough to play in the first game. That would be my guess right now. And, the others are coming on.

"We were talking about how good our depth is before the scrimmage and I still think we will have some decent depth there. I like the way the guys are working and practicing. Jared was doing well. He'll still be fine."

Nutt said the tailbacks are practicing well and noted the injury bug with De'Arrius Howard seems to be improving. Howard has been bothered by lower back problems, shin splints and a sore knee.

"We think it's all related," Nutt said. "We got him some different shoes and that seems to have helped."

Both Nutt and quarterback Roy Wittke were impressed with quarterback Robert Johnson's workout.

"Robert was better today," Nutt said. "He led a good drive. He's having less of a problem now with the (groin injury). I think it looks like he's going to be in a position with (the injury) next week where it's not going to be a problem."

Wittke said, "He's gotten better every day. He had a good day in the pocket today. You can't replace the work he missed, but he has a great attitude and you can see that he feels good about himself. It's a big part of the picture, how he feels. He's comfortable with himself and I like that.

"It's a change in attitudes from last fall and even from last spring. It's very striking the difference. I think it's something everyone sees and feeds off of when you are at that spot.

"We are still having some turnovers, way too many. However, the kind of turnovers are different. I'd characterize turnovers as forced and unforced. These are of more of a forced variety. Our defense, the way they play now, is very much aggressive and playing press coverage all the time. Sometimes they are forcing them instead of just us making a bad play. Some things the defense has done are very, very impressive. That's a great thing in that we are having to face that every day. It's making us better."

Defensively, coordinator Reggie Herring said he's reshuffled the deck at the two tackle positions, moving Fred Bledsoe and Marcus Harrison to the third team. Those two players have been on and off the field a lot because of nagging injuries. Herring indicated he didn't think they could be starters without being on the field more.

"Right now, we don't know who wants it inside," said Herring, noting Keith Jackson and Jeremy Harrell were with the first team on Thursday.

"We are keeping it kind of open to see how it goes."

The Hogs are expected to reveal their first depth chart since before fall workouts began and Herring indicated that tackle is where the few question marks are right now.

"Everything is pretty much set, but those tackles I don't know," Herring said. "That's the only position I really don't know. Too inconsistent."

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