Skinner, Punt Team Shining For Hogs

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas punter Jacob Skinner is creeping up the Southeastern Conference statistical leaders after averaging 48.2 yards per punt during Saturday's 23-20 loss at No. 4 Georgia. He's sixth in the league with 41.3 yards per punt.

"It's been the people around me more than anything I'm doing," Skinner said. "(Deep snapper Brett) Goode's giving me a great snap every time and we have an unbelievable protection team with phenomenal gunners who get down the field so fast.

"It makes my job easy."

Punt team as a whole has been strong. The Hogs are fourth in the SEC and 14th nationally with 37.6 net yards per punt. That accounts for yards made on returns and Skinner's hang time is a big reason why gunners Chris Houston and John Johnson have been in position to make quick tackles.

While it may not help his average, Skinner has had 10 punts downed inside the 20. He has put it in the end zone only twice for touchbacks.

"When we're in a pooch situation, I'm always looking for the ball to be right there," Houston said. "I know (Skinner's) going to get it up there plenty high enough, so I'm basically looking to make the play every time just the way coach (Chris) Vaughn teaches us."

The longest return for an opponent was 16 yards by Georgia's Thomas Flowers last Saturday. It came after Skinner booted a 57-yarder in the second quarter which he agreed was too far.

"The wind was really blowing, so I was kind of having to drive the ball a little bit more," Skinner said. "I wasn't hitting the ball as high as I normally do. When you kick it that far, it looks good on your average, but you're outkicking your coverage.

"It's kind of a win-lose situation. You want the distance, but the most important thing for the team is the net (yards)."

Mum's The Word
Nothing has changed, at least nobody is saying otherwise, with the quarterback situation after three days of practice this week. That means Robert Johnson has retained his starting status, for now.

With heavy emphasis on fundamentals, Johnson, Alex Mortensen, Casey Dick and Cole Barthel all continued to get first-team snaps.

"Anytime you have a bye week and an open week, it's a tremendous opportunity to get a lot of work in," said quarterbacks coach Roy Wittke. "The approach we're taking is that we want to get better. Our focus is on competing, come to work hard every day and improve. We have to improve on a daily basis and then carry that into the game on Saturday."

The Hogs practiced 90 minutes earlier than usual on Thursday in order to allow players who were heading home extra time for their trips. They return to practice Sunday afternoon.

Blitzing Olajubutu
Linebacker Sam Olajubutu gets more comfortable in first-year defensive coordinator Reggie Herring's scheme with each blitz. He leads the team with nine tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. His seven quarterback hurries is tied with Marcus Harrison for the team lead.

"When coach Herring first came in, my eyes lit up," Olajubutu said. "He was drawing up all the plays where there's blitzes and switches by the linebackers, kind of like an NFL-package defense.

"It took some time, but now we've got it all down where we know what to do and we can go full speed."

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt has noticed. Linebackers Olajubutu, Freddie Fairchild and Pierre Brown combined for five stops for losses and three sacks at Georgia.

"They're starting to get confidence in what's being called in the huddle," Nutt said. "It seems like they're playing faster and when they're playing faster, they know what to do and that's the key."

Monk's Hoops Plans
Receiver Marcus Monk doubled with the basketball team at the conclusion of football last season. Hogs basketball coach Stan Heath said Thursday he hadn't talked with Monk about it, adding that he wouldn't approach him before football ended anyway.

Monk's name surfaced as a possibility for the hoops Hogs during the SEC Basketball Media Days in Hoover, Ala., this week. But the sophomore is uncertain of his future.

"A couple of the (basketball) players have been asking me about it," Monk said. "I've just got to sit down after the season and think about it, because playing both (sports) would be a lot. I haven't made any decision, but I'll talk to (Heath) when I know."

Monk was a hot hoops commodity during his recruitment at East Poinsett County High in Lepanto. He averaged a double-double per game in points and rebounds during each of his three seasons.

Not Seeing Red
Nutt wasn't positive he'd keep redshirts on several freshmen. Dick and defensive end Antwain Robinson are true freshmen who have been pushing for playing time of late.

"We want to win right now," Nutt said. "If a young man can help us win, as much as we'd like to redshirt one, I think it's real important for us to put the best on the field, at any position.

"There's a month left of football, four games left, but that's a lot of games and a lot of important games that we want to win."

Injury Update
Three Razorbacks have been slowed this week by minor knee injuries. They are linebackers Clark Moore and Weston Dacus and tight end Mason Templeton, who was the only one of the three to practice Thursday.

The Razorbacks originally scheduled scrimmages for redshirting freshmen and underclassmen this week. But because of injuries, they didn't don full pads in any of the practices and were unable to scrimmage.


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