Tuesday Grid Update, 9/20

Arkansas returned to the practice field after two days off following a 70-17 loss to Southern Cal. Will injured quarterback Robert Johnson be able to play against Alabama this week?

Quarterback Robert Johnson practiced with no problems after missing much of the Southern Cal after sustaining a mild concussion and a bruise to the lower back. Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said Johnson looked fine Tuesday in a full-pad workout and suffered no headaches.

The Hogs will be without offensive guards Zac Tubbs and Jonathan Luigs, both slowed by high ankle sprains, this week against Alabama. However, they may get tight end Jared Hicks back this week. Hicks practiced on a limited basis Tuesday. Linebacker Pierre Brown (knee injury) practiced on a limited basis, but was not full speed. He is probably questionable for the game.

"We had a good practice today," Houston Nutt said. "You appreciate as coach when things don't go right when players respond like they did today. It was hot (95) and we practiced hard. We worked on correcting things. The players gave it all they had. We got better today.

"Robert is sore as far as the lower back, but he's tough and he fought through it. He should be fine Saturday. He had no headaches and that was the good news."

Nutt said there were no depth chart changes and no position switches for this week's game.

"It would be too quick to make a move right now and be ready for this week," Nutt said. "We have our best players at each position right now. It would be too quick a turnaround to make a move."

Nutt said Tyler Morgan, praised for his work against SC, worked at first team guard and will be backed up by Chase Pressley this week.

"Tyler has the edge there so far," Nutt said.

Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring said his team worked hard Tuesday.

"It was hot, but we pushed through," said Herring, who also noted he was making no lineup changes for Alabama.

"We got who we got. We played everyone last week and all of them were a part of the loss and giving up 70 points. The thing that was disappointing was we made more mistakes in assignment than we'd been making. We worked on correcting those mistakes today.

"The easiest thing right now would be to quit, but I know these kids and they aren't doing that. I knew they wouldn't. Right now, the challenge is to fight back. Right now, as I told them, no one loves them. They can listen to the talk and worry about it, or they can go fight. They are going to go fight."

Tight end coach Clifton Ealy hopes Hicks can contribute this week, but has some doubts.

"He ran fine today, but there is more to it than just running fine," Ealy said. "Can he plant and push off and then deliver a blow in blocking? Will his ankle give. We'll find out more Wednesday, but today's workout was good. I liked what Wes Murphy did in the game Saturday night. He blocked. Can his ankle hold up? He's sore today. But, he competed and played hard and we made some plays behind him. I hope this is the week we have them all back. Maybe, maybe not."

Running backs coach Danny Nutt said he liked the way both Felix Jones and Darren McFadden practiced Tuesday. McFadden took the first handoff in individual drills, but no one would acknowledge whether he had been bumped to first team.

"Felix and Darren both had great days today," Danny Nutt said. "They also played very well Saturday night. They had what I call the eye of the Tiger in the game. They wanted the ball and thought they were going all the way on every play. They were disappointed when they were tackled.

"I saw something in McFadden in this game. He was at a different level and a different speed than he'd been previously. He got after it. He hit people and he played hard.

"Felix competed, too. They are both giving us everything they have and they have learned to protect the ball with three pressure points. They weren't doing that in practice until this week.

"I told Houston on Thursday of this past week that they were ready. Before last week, when they ran, even in practice, they would swing their arm. They didn't even know they were doing it. I saw it and would tell them, and they'd do it again the next day. They don't do that now. Both of them took some flush hits against SC, but the had the ball secured."

McFadden agreed with his coaches. He noted that he had to learn the difference between securing the ball and being conscious of it.

"I don't blame the coaches for not playing me more in the Vanderbilt game," McFadden said. "I would have done the same thing, to be honest with you. It was the first conference game and know they wanted to go with the proven backs. I hadn't proven myself yet, but I think I have now.

"I had to learn about putting the ball away and making it secure. I did that this past week. It made it more comfortable when you knew contact was coming. I actually tried to pass some hits, deliver some blows because I knew the ball was safe. I liked it and I think we got better in that game.

"We've had good attitudes this week. The defense brought it today. They got better. It was a good day of work. Our guys all fought hard today.

"It's been interesting the last two days. I've seen a new focus in all of the players, offense and defense. We want to prove something this week. We didn't do well last week. We all know that. But we are excited to get into conference play and see what we can do."

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