Gragg Hopes To Win Bragging Rights

FAYETTEVILLE -- Appropriately, Derrick Gragg sported an orange and red tie on Tuesday. The Arkansas senior associate athletic director earned his bachelor's degree in human development from Vanderbilt University in 1992.

Despite ties to both schools, Gragg won't be wearing orange on Saturday when the Hogs host the Commodores at 6 p.m. in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"I'm going to be wearing red, you can count on that," Gragg said. "I have no mixed emotions about it. It won't be hard at all to cheer for Arkansas and I have no problem telling everybody that I'll be cheering for Arkansas this weekend.

"I know where my allegiances lie and I'll root for Vandy every week, except for this one."

Gragg lettered four years (1988-91) for the Commodores as a receiver before serving as an administrator at Missouri and Michigan. He arrived at Arkansas in 2000 and spent his first three years as associate athletic director and director of compliance. He was promoted to his current position in 2003.

This past year, Gragg earned his Ph. D from Arkansas.

"I may be the only person in the stadium on Saturday that has graduated from both schools," Gragg said.

This is the first time the institution Gragg works for has played his alma mater in football. Of course, the Hogs play Vanderbilt in basketball and other sports all the time, but this will be a first for him.

Gragg said he still stays in touch with folks in Vanderbilt's athletic department and is even planning a lunch with a development officer on Monday. He said there "will be some gloating" should the Hogs win.

"I have a lot of good friends still in the (Nashville, Tenn.) area," Gragg said. "A lot of good friends that I still talk to that I went to school with and there's going to be a couple of guys that I played ball with that are actually going to be here for the game.

"But we don't have any bets going. There's no gambling allowed by the NCAA.

"Just bragging rights."

Defensive Tackles
Arkansas will start Keith Jackson and Marcus Harrison at the defensive tackle positions on Saturday. Sophomore Fred Bledsoe, who led the group with four tackles in Saturday's 49-17 win against Missouri State, has been demoted to the third team after beginning the week listed as a starter on the depth chart.

"Bledsoe has all the talent in the world, but he's got to come to work everyday," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "Right now, he's giving us, out of four plays, about two plays. We've got to have more from him and he knows that.

"We're expecting much better things from him, starting this week."

Redshirt freshman Michael Tate and true freshman Marcus Shavers are working with the second-team at the defensive tackle positions. Neither have played a down of college football.

"I think (Shavers) was trying a little too hard the first week or week and a half," Nutt said. "His effort and intensity is awesome. He's just kept working and working and working and that's what we're striving for.

"We're not going to let anyone take a lazy step that has the privilege to put on a Razorback uniform and get out on the field."

Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said he plans to rotate five at defensive tackle, with Bledsoe being the fifth guy at this time. Jeremy Harrell, who started against MSU, also could factor in if he's able to return from a deep thigh bruise.

Returning Punts
Michael Coe leads the Southeastern Conference with an average of 15.2 yards per punt return, but the Hogs continue to search for reliable backups. This week, Felix Jones, Peyton Hillis and Reggie Fish all fielded punts behind Coe.

"We've got some new guys back there and we weren't really sure who was going to emerge," said Arkansas assistant Bobby Allen, who's in his first season of coaching returners. "Michael Coe really gives us a lot of confidence in the fact that he's going to secure the ball. He did a great job and proved he can make the first guy miss.

"But we've got to get another guy ready just in case something happens to Michael."

Fish, a true freshman, fumbled his only punt return attempt during Saturday's win.

"We're not giving up on Reggie because we think he can be an excellent punt returner for us," Allen said. "But we want to give some of the other guys a little taste, just to see what they can do. It'd be nice if we can get three guys that we can trust to go with at any given time and that's what we're trying to find."

More Ties
Arkansas reserve cornerback Michael Grant attended the same high school, Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson, as Commodores receiver Alex Washington. Of course, there was some ragging between the two when they ran into each other in their hometown this summer.

"We talked a little trash," Grant said. "We said things like, 'Yeah, we're playing ya'll and we're going to beat ya'll, so you better be ready.' But it was all in fun.

"If he gets in there and lines up at receiver against me, I'll probably have to talk a little trash to him during the game, too."

Grant made two solo tackles against Missouri State while Williamson, a true freshman, did not play in Vanderbilt's 24-20 win against Wake Forest.

Showing Support
Arkansas players will have a new decal on the back of their helmets on Saturday. Designed by equipment manager Tim Cheney, the decal is in the shape of the states -- Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi -- affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Injury Update
Three Razorbacks did not practice Thursday and likely won't play Saturday. They are offensive tackle Zac Tubbs (ankle), receiver Chris Baker (knee) and tight end Lance Thompson (knee). Baker will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging scan on Saturday to determine the extent of his injury.

Tight end Wes Murphy (ankle) did practice and is expected to be available Saturday.

See Razorback Central for more Hog stories.

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