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Sophomore running back Peyton Hillis was sidelined for several days because of a nasty stomach virus, but was impressive enough in preseason practices to step in front of senior De'Arrius Howard for the starting job at tailback.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound sophomore is scheduled to make his second career start today, but will do much more than line up at tailback. He has prepared for an all-purpose role in the preseason and could be used at tailback, fullback, H-back and tight end today. He'll also return kickoffs and punts for the Hogs.

The bruising ball carrier is expected to get first crack at a Missouri State defense led by leading returning tackler Darryl Johnson. The unit wasn't impressive last season, surrendering 218.8 rushing yards a game. Four opponents Western Illinois (331 yards), Illinois State (304), Southern Illinois (364) and Western Kentucky (336) rushed for at least 300 yards against the Bears in 2004.

The Hogs plan to control opponents on the ground this season, leaning on its experienced line and plethora of ball carriers to help starting quarterback Robert Johnson ease into his new role. Besides Hillis, Arkansas has experience in the backfield with Howard (1,391 career rushing yards and 19 touchdowns), Dedrick Poole (23 career games, 231 all-purpose yards), Kyle Dickerson (265 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns) and hard-nosed fullback Brandon Kennedy.

But the Hogs also will introduce its new tandem of tailbacks in true freshmen Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Coach Houston Nutt said the newcomers have added breakaway speed, agility and versatility. The freshmen led the Hogs in rushing during the Fan Day scrimmage, combining for 113 yards on 20 carries.

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