The University of Arkansas' homecoming game may be later this year in Fayetteville, but it might as well be this weekend for starting defensive tackle Keith Jackson, Jr. and the rest of the Razorbacks who are Little Rock natives.
Jackson (6-0, 285) is one of 15 or so guys from Central Arkansas that will see significant action when the Razorbacks (2-3) host the University of Louisiana-Monroe Saturday night at 6 p.m. in War Memorial Stadium.
"It is going to be exciting because of the fans down there," Jackson said. "I never get more crunkered than when going to Little Rock. But I just love playing ball and I am always crunked and ready to play whether it is in Little Rock or not."
Arkansas practiced on campus Thursday afternoon and will work out again on Friday morning before leaving for Little Rock around noon, visiting a hospital and then going through a walk through at the stadium.
The Razorbacks will face a ULM squad that is coming off a 31-28 win over visiting Arkansas State and who doesn't run a predictable offense per Jackson.
"You have got to be ready for all their trick plays," Jackson said. "They run all kinds of crazy stuff. You can't face them like they are underdogs, you have to face them like they are a regular team that is your equal. Any given day you can lose."
After an early season when the first-team spots were changing on a daily basis, Jackson and fellow Little Rock native Marcus Harrison started against Alabama and played well.
He had a season-high 7 tackles in both the Vanderbilt and Alabama losses while his career-high was 9 tackles against LSU last season.
"All I can do is thank Coach Rocker for making me work hard every day I come out," Jackson said. "He critiques me on everything I do every day, I know I can't take a play off or somebody will take my spot."
Jackson, whose only start last season was in a 49-20 win over ULM, is the team's fifth leading tackler this season with 21 stops, two for lost yardage, one sack and a quarterback hurry.
He is most proud of how the defense came back from a 70-17 thrashing at the hands of No. 1 USC.
"The week after the USC game everybody thought we were going to be down against Alabama," Jackson said. "They thought when you get beat like that you go straight to the bottom. We said to ourselves it wasn't going to be like that and came out and practiced as hard as we ever had for a whole week. We had tremendous focus."
Jackson, who had 26 tackles total last season, expects that to happen again this week, but with the net result being a win.
"We know as a defense we have to play every snap and that's what we will do," Jackson said. "It has to be every one on every play. No one can take a play off."
Houston Nutt thought the Hogs finished a good two weeks of workouts with a "fast" practice on Thursday that finished inside Walker Pavilion.
"First, our thoughts go out to the (Martine) Bercher family," Nutt said. "We want to let the family know that we are thinking about them and know what they are going through."
Bercher, a former UA star safety, is battling cancer in a Ft. Smith hospital.
Nutt said the Hogs had a "good mental day" on Thursday. He said both the offense and the defense practiced "very fast," and that was the goal for the two weeks.
"We wanted them to know their assignments and play very, very fast," Nutt said. "We want a fast team on the field Saturday night in Little Rock. We want to execute, play fast and win the turnover battle. We want to execute without penalties."
Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison returned to practice and had "a good day," according to Nutt. However, wideout Cedric Washington, slowed by a sore hamstring, rested his ailing leg Thursday. He is expected to play Saturday night.
Nutt said the Hogs continue to watch defensive end Zach Snider, bothered by a mild concussion the past few days. He said that Snider seems to be fine and will play.
Nutt said true freshman wide receiver Rod Coleman has had two solid weeks of practice and seems to make a big play in each workout. He will play against ULM, but Nutt would not say how much.
Quarterback Robert Johnson completed two solid weeks of practice since the Hogs last played, a game in which Johnson struggled against Alabama.
"We've put a hard rush on him and he's seen every blitz known," Nutt said. "ULM is dial a blitz. We couldn't even cover them all. It will be a good test for him. His practices have been excellent, but now we need to see how he handles it in a game. It can be different in that setting."
Thursday Grid Report, 10/6
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