Arkansas returned to the practice field with what coach Houston Nutt termed a "good practice" on Tuesday as prepartions intensified for Saturday's game at Ole Miss.
"Our team worked real hard and I'm real pleased with the attitude," Nutt said. "When things don't go just right it is sometimes tough and it takes a real man to keep playing this game.
"The effort was there. We worked hard today on short yardage and in the red zone, on finishing blocks, doing all the little things right, holding your blocks a little longer. We worked real hard on the goal line, trying to get that extra two yards for our backs."
As far as effort and intensity, Nutt was asked to compare this Tuesday practice to those earlier in the season since the Hogs are now done as far as bowl hopes.
"It was a good day, but it was not as loud in (Walker Pavilion) as it was maybe earlier this season," Nutt said. "Just not as loud would be the main difference."
Nutt said injured offensive linemen Kyle Roper and Stephen Parker didn't take every snap. Instead, Jonathan Luigs moved from guard to center to rest Roper and Jeremy Harrell took over at right guard for Luigs.
"Roper and Parker are beat up," Nutt said. "So, Luigs and Harrell are stepping up. Harrell has studied hard on the playbook. He's got some of it down and he's trying to learn the other stuff. He's got two or three base blocking schemes down and is trying to get some of the tougher things like screens and other mixes of things to go with it. Jeremy has shown a lot of maturity."
Nutt said quarterback Casey Dick, who made his first start against South Carolina, seemed to be improving.
"He's seeing things quicker and getting better," Nutt said. "He's picking things up between the huddle and the snap a little quicker."
He'll have to play better Saturday since Nutt said Dick will be "facing one of the SEC's best defenses. They are about all seniors. I see a lot of familiar names. In talking with Coach (David) Cutcliffe, he was telling me this was going to be about his best defense this year. On offense, they are about like us, inconsistent, but capable."
Nutt said Peyton Hillis continued to work as the punt returner along with Felix Jones and Reggie Fish. It was obvious that Nutt would like to get Jones into the punt return picture.
"Peyton feels better and we'll give him a long look this week, but Felix is a difference maker," Nutt said. "You'd like to see what he can do there. Felis is coming on. Anytime you have a difference maker, you want to see if he can do it."
Quarterback coach Roy Wittke liked what he saw on film of his new quarterback, Casey Dick.
"He did well for the most part," Wittke said. "He made mistakes, but not a lot of mistakes. He had the one throw where Marcus Monk went inside and he threw it to the outside. He had the route wrong. Then, the screen was an obvious mistake. It's a tough look, a tough pass to get right, but there are no excuses. You can't force it. That was his error.
"The fourth down pass to Monk at the end -- that was part him and part Monk. Either one of them could have done something different and made it right, just a little by either one of them. Monk sat in the zone and Casey thought he was going to keep moving. You can see they were both right or say they were both wrong. That's just not playing enough.
"What Casey did really well was get us in the right formation and right plays. We had one alert where we read something and he checks to a certain play. He did that right every time. We were able to get some big plays in the run game with those alerts or checks.
"That's a big-time adjustment that helped our running game and it's good to see that in his first game, to get it right every single time. He picked it up perfect every time they did it, he saw it and made the check.
"We had one formation wrong where Peyton lined up wrong and then went in motion to the wrong side and Casey saw it and just made a simple correction with a motion to Peyton and changed the motion. Looked like he's been doing it for a long time the way he picked that up. So we didn't bust a single formation and he called the plays exactly right and the formations exactly right in the huddle. That's impressive for a first time out. He had no play clock problems and handled the game in good fashion.
"Having said all of that, the most important thing he did was give his team some confidence that we could execute some down-the-field throws. He did that in practice and then he hit some in the game. He's pretty good in that area and it's important that the team sees that."
Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring isn't sure what the Hogs will see in Oxford with Ole Miss changing to quarterback Ethan Flatt after trying two runners the first half of the season.
"They've had a week off and I expect some new things this week," Herring said. "I've told our defense to expect something.
"They've got a good running game. They've got good backs and good linemen. What they haven't done is be consistent in the passing game at quarterback. With Flatt, who knows what they'll do. He does have a better arm than Spurlock and Lane. But we know we still might see them as runners."
Herring said he's pleased with certain aspects of the defense, especially the improved toughness since spring practice and even early this season.
"The one thing we've done better as the season has progressed is hold our gaps with a more physical presence," he said. "We've played with more tenacity and that's every one of them. We've gotten tougher. That's what I thought we lacked in the spring and early on, but the group has developed and become tougher since we challenged them.
"I don't want to brag too much. It all could go down the drain starting with Ole Miss in these last three games. I know one thing, it is day to day here, game to game. To brag right now would be foolish. I can't mention any names. It's all as a group."
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