Razorbacks May Get 'Hot Rod' Revved Up

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said after Thursday's practice that he's close to pulling the redshirt off freshman receiver Rod Coleman, a 6-foot-2, 175-pounder who runs a 4.38 second, 40-yard dash.

This comes on the heels of Hogs junior receiver Chris Baker limping out of practice Wednesday. He continues to be bothered by a strained ligament in his left knee.

"Since we don't think we're going to have Chris Baker now, we need one more speed receiver and he gives us that," Nutt said. "I hate to take the redshirt off of (Coleman), but we gave him a lot of looks (Thursday). He may be one guy that can help us at receiver because of his speed.

"He's been going against our defense since Day 1 and he's just done an outstanding job of running routes and catching the football."

Nutt said the final decision will be made next week in regards to Coleman's redshirt, but added he's "pretty close" to activating the speedster from Camden Fairview High.

As a senior last season, Coleman lined up at quarterback and receiver. He passed for 675 yards and 10 touchdowns while adding 625 yards and 10 touchdowns as a receiver.

"This is big for me, personally," Coleman said. "It tells me that I've been doing my job and now I'm ready to go if they need me next week. I'm not upset that I didn't play sooner. I just wasn't ready.

"But it was a good learning experience for me to watch some from the sidelines and now I'm ready to do something with what I've learned if given the chance."

Despite the nagging injury, Baker said he's not ready to call it quits on this season even though he has yet to see action in any of the Razorbacks' first four games.

"I'm still trying to stay positive about it, but it's tough," Baker said. "The decision hasn't been made final about me redshirting. They want to see what my knee is going to do first.

"Some days, I feel good and feel like I could play, but then other days, my knee is hurting really bad. I've been thinking about redshirting, but I still want to come back if I can."

Baker was Arkansas' best deep threat a year ago and led the team with an average of 23.7 yards per catch. In his absence this season, the Razorbacks have completed only four passes of 20 yards or more.

Freddie's 'Reward'
Senior linebacker Pierre Brown has returned from a sprained knee that sidelined him for two weeks. But that doesn't mean true freshman linebacker Freddie Fairchild has relinquished his position with the first-team defense.

Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring has kept Fairchild at strongside linebacker this week and moved Brown back to middle linebacker in place of Clarke Moore. Fairchlid started the past two games against top-ranked Southern California and then-No. 20 Alabama, recording 10 tackles.

"This is not a demotion for Clarke Moore," Herring said. "This is more of a reward for Freddie. It's an opportunity to get our three best athletes on the field."

The first team group, for now, consists of Fairchild, Brown and weakside linebacker Sam Olajubutu, who leads the Southeastern Conference in tackles (43). The second-team unit consists of Moore (middle), redshirt freshman Weston Dacus (strongside) and walk-on Brandon Sturdivant (weakside).

"Clarke Moore is going to play a lot of football," Herring said. "Like I told him, this is not a demotion. This is more, let's see if Freddie keeps improving. If he doesn't, then we can go back. But we're trying to build now."

Luigs Improving
With Zac Tubbs redshirting because of ankle problems, starting duties at right guard will be left to Jonathan Luigs, who is struggling with an ankle injury of his own.

"I feel a little better every day, but my ankle still is a little weak," Luigs said. "It's hard to push off and drive people, so all I can do is keep getting my rehab. (UA trainer) Dean (Weber) said it's better for me to keep going out there and keep it moving rather than just sit out of practice."

Tyler Morgan started at right guard against Alabama, but Luigs likely will be the starter against Louisiana-Monroe next Saturday if he's healthy. He plans to stay off the ankle for the next two days while the Hogs are off in hopes of speeding his recovery.

Under Armor
Freshman tailback Darren McFadden sported extra equipment this week -- a flap of hard plastic from a shoulder pad that's secured by tape on his sprained left shoulder.

"My shoulder's still pretty sore, but I can play through it." McFadden said. "I do what I can to get it loosened up every day and try to keep it moving, so I can keep some rotation in it. But when the adrenaline gets going, I don't feel a thing."

It appeared to be flowing when McFadden, who originally suffered the injury against USC and aggravated it against Alabama, still used his left hand to stiff arm Tide safety Roman Harper on his way to a 70-yard touchdown run.

Johnson Wasn't 100 Percent
While he doesn't want to use it as an excuse, Hogs quarterback Robert Johnson fought through back pain while completing just 13 of 28 passes against Alabama.

"My back still is bothering me a little bit," Johnson said. "Especially right after I took that first hit, it really started hurting. But it wasn't nothing I couldn't play through."

Johnson missed the second half against USC after suffering a mild concussion and a helmet-sized bruise on his lower back. He said the stiffness in his back continues to improve with each practice.

Morning News staff writer Robbie Neiswanger contributed to this report.

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