Roper Remains Questionable With Injury

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas center Kyle Roper did not practice Thursday and remains questionable for Saturday's game against No. 21 Auburn with a sprained right knee. It will be game-time decision whether he can play.

Roper, a senior from Powder Springs, Ga., started 15 consecutive games before missing last Saturday's 44-15 win against Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock. He appeared to be recovering well earlier in the week before suffering from stiffness in the knee Thursday.

"Roper's still not quite there, yet. I'm hoping by Saturday, it will be different," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "We held him out (Thursday). He went through a few fundamental things, but not much."

Nutt compared the injury to the one suffered by linebacker Pierre Brown last month.

"It took Pierre four or five weeks (to return)," Nutt said. "It's a little worse than what we thought. I'm hoping it's not as bad as Pierre's. It's tough, but as you can see he's trying to work it out and trying to get ready to play. He wants to play. There's nothing like a senior's heart."

If Roper can't play, redshirt freshman Jonathan Luigs will start his second consecutive game at center. Chase Pressley would start at right guard, Luigs' regular position.

Even though he missed practice time, Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Markuson believes Roper's status continues to improve and is hoping he'll be ready. But Luigs and Pressley performed well against ULM, leaving Markuson confident the offensive line would be in solid shape even without Roper.

"We feel all right," Markuson said. "(Chase) played most of the game, which was good. He needed some game and he's really improving."

Big Returns
The Arkansas-Auburn game will feature four of the Southeastern Conference's top kickoff returners: Arkansas' Felix Jones and Darren McFadden; and Auburn's Devin Aromashodu and Brad Lester.

Jones (first), Aromashodu (second) and McFadden (fifth) are listed among the top five in the SEC and top 30 in the nation in kickoff returns. Jones averages 32.1 yards, Aromashodu averages 31.5 and McFadden averages 27.3.

"I wouldn't say it's easy, but you just catch the ball and run," Jones said. "The front line makes it so easy to see the hole and make the cuts. It's a lot more of the blockers making it for us. That's what really helps us is the blocking."

Lester has fared better, but isn't listed among the SEC leaders because he has returned just three kicks. The redshirt freshman is averaging 60.3 yards a return -- enough to lead the nation -- including a 93-yard touchdown against Ball State.

"Hopefully you don't have to do a lot of kickoff returns, but if you do, you want to set the field position up to a point where your offense doesn't have to drive 90, 95 yards for a score," said Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville.

Tiger Ties
Junior Sam Olajubutu, who grew up an hour from the Auburn campus in LaGrange, Ga., isn't the only Arkansas linebacker with Auburn ties. Senior Pierre Brown has plenty of familiarity with the Tigers growing up in Birmingham, Ala.

In fact, Auburn was the first school to extend a scholarship offer to Brown. He also attended the Tigers' football camp the summer before his senior season, where he first met current Auburn linebacker Travis Williams, among others. And Brown said he played against several Tigers, including quarterback Brandon Cox, in high school.

"I grew up liking Auburn more than Alabama," said Brown, whose hometown is less than an hour from the Alabama campus and about three hours from Auburn. "I was never a big, big fan of either. I was not an Alabama fan at all. Why, I don't know.

"But I liked Auburn more and I liked Alabama."

Safety Switch
Senior Randy Kelly is listed as the starter at strong safety which moves Vickiel Vaughn to free safety. It also switched Matterral Richardson back to cornerback, where he's listed as the backup behind starter Michael Coe.

Kelly started four games at free safety last season while Vaughn started six games there a year ago. Vaughn has started all five games this season at strong safety.

Robinson Leaves
Senior linebacker Michael Robinson has left the team for personal reasons, according to coaches.

Robinson, a Parade All-American from Birmingham (Ala.) Jackson-Olin, had two tackles in the first two games, but did not play in the last three. He was plague by injuries throughout his career. He played in 19 games and finished with 13 tackles, two for a loss and one forced fumble.

Injury Report
Nutt said he hopes tight end Wes Murphy (groin) can play, but the Hogs have been encouraged this week by the return of senior tight end Jared Hicks, whose five snaps against Alabama was his only action this season because of an ankle injury.

Kicker Brian Vavra (back) remains questionable while cornerback John Johnson (bruised sternum) has been upgraded to probable after returning to practice Thursday.

Boom Boxes
Arkansas has installed 52 new windows along the top of both the east and south indoor club areas. They can be opened to allow natural sound in and out of the previously enclosed areas while preserving a climate-controlled environment.

Less than 800 club seats remain for Saturday's game.

Honorary Captain
Former Arkansas offensive tackle Jim Mabry (1986-89) will be the team's honorary captain for Saturday's game. Mabry, who was named an all-American in 1989, anchored an offensive line that won back-to-back Southwest Conference titles by averaging 453 yards per game in 1988-89.


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