Arkansas Grid Update, 9/27

Linebacker Pierre Brown returned to the practice field after missing two games with an injured knee.

Arkansas returned to the practice field Tuesday after taking a day off for lab day on Monday. Head coach Houston Nutt called it a good work day. He said the squad spent the day correcting mistakes and eliminating penalties that stopped the offense against Alabama.

"We finished with a good scrimmage with the redshirts and younger guys," Nutt said. "We had a good practice and corrected some execution mistakes."

The Hogs welcomed back senior captain Pierre Brown, out the last two weeks with a slightly torn ligament in his knee. Brown was able to make it through most phases of the workout, although he did not participate in the major contact work.

"It was good to get Pierre back," Nutt said. "It's a good feeling to have him out there. He knows things and has seen a lot of formations. Freddie Fairchild has come a long ways and will continue to get better, but he'll be better if he can rest some and that should happen with Pierre back. He'll also be better on special teams if he is a little fresher."

Nutt said tailback Darren McFadden had a sore shoulder and didn't go through the contact work, but was able to go through practice. He has a partial separation of his right shoulder. Nutt said, "We won't hit (McFadden) this week and Pierre is not full speed, but getting closer."

Marcus Harrison made it through practice despite a sore ankle, as did Jonathan Luigs. Nutt said Tyler Morgan took most of the snaps with the first team at right guard, but that Luigs rotated in some as practice progressed.

In the 2-play scrimmage to end the day, Nutt said Rod Coleman, Casey Dick, De'Andre Bryant, Antwain Robinson, Kevin Thornton, Matt Harris and Matt Stoltz did well. Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring added that walkon linebacker Brandon Sturdivant continues to impress.

"We took Sturdivant to Alabama as a backup just in case we had some disasters (as far as injuries)," Herring said. "He hasn't played yet and we want to redshirt him. But he's a will linebacker who has athletic ability, speed and appears to be capable of making plays. He keeps catching your eye. He'll get a major look as a number two in spring ball and someone who is going to help us on special teams."

Nutt said wide receiver Chris Baker, out since a knee injury in two-a-days, had a good day on Sunday when he returned to practice, but was "very sore" on Tuesday. Nutt said they would try to make a decison on the medical hardship status on Zac Tubbs and Darius Vinnett on Sunday. Neither practiced Tuesday.

"If we can't get Zac and Darius full speed by Sunday, we'll hold them out (for a redshirt)," Nutt said.

Nutt was in Alabama on Monday for festivities at the Birmingham Touchdown Club to honor athletic director Frank Broyles.

"They had asked me to speak last year and I couldn't make it and I wanted to be there for the honor they gave to Coach Broyles," Nutt said. "But really, it was a recruiting trip. Mike Markuson and I visited three or four schools in the Birmingham area. We've had a good thing going down there with being able to bring in some players."

Herring said he was pleased with some of the progress in the defense against Alabama, but not the overall result.

"You can see our confidence growing in some areas," Herring said. "This defense, as I've said, is a work in progress. We took a step as far as improvement, but we still have a long way to go.

"It was a progression from the Vandy game. Obviously, the SC game was a step back. The SC game, whether you like it or not, wasn't going to help our growth. Our kids didn't handle it and it was a step back.

"We took a step backwards at SC, then we responded in a positive way at Alabama against a top 20 team. But we are still a work in progress.

"The sad part was that last play. That's all I'm going to hear about, I know. It's ridiculous. We did it and life goes on. But I'll be hearing about it and telling about the time we didn't cover the wide receiver for the next 30 years, when I'm selling trash bags.

"We ran the same defense for three straight plays. We thought they were fixing to run the draw and then kick a field goal. That's what we were planning for and that's what they were going to run. We had eight in the box. We had them outnumbered and we were going to stop it. But we didn't cover the wide receiver."

Herring said he was pleased with the way Fairchild responded in Brown's absence.

"To be honest, at SC, I was glad he put his jock on straight," Herring said. "I'll tell you point blank, it's a true freshman making his first start in the LA Coliseum against one of the great all-time teams in college football. And, on the first play, he lined up on the wrong side. Imagine the nerves and anxiety. But he made some plays. He made more plays and fewer mistakes this last week and now he's gaining some confidence. He'll make more plays as he goes forward. You've got to be encouraged about him."

As far as the heart and character of the defense, Herring said he was pleased with the effort at Alabama.

"What you know is that across America, 80 percent of the masses quit in similar situations," Herring said. "We didn't. We came and fought. They care and have pride. That gives you some kind of hope.

"We are not where we need to be, especially with the won-loss record. We didn't expect to be 1-3.

"But we are getting better. You look at Fairchild and he's getting better. You look at our ends and they are getting better. One of them was moved from linebacker and another from wide receiver so that we could get to some resemblance of a true 4-3 defense.

"Brown is like Freddie Fairchild. Just needs to keep playing. He's getting better and better every week. That's what you know about Anthony and Freddie. They are chipping away and getting there. That's what we have to do with each player, just keep chipping away until we get there."

The brightest spot, Herring said, is outside backer Sam Olajubutu.

"He is our spiritual leader," Herring said. "He is our brightest spot, as you say. Regardless of how things have gone, he's been our leader. He has great desire. He is maturing, too. He just has to keep being consistent and continue to be that valuable to our team. We've got a long way to go and he needs to keep improving, too."

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