Thining O-Line Spawns Change

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Houston Nutt announced a possible solution to shoring up an offensive line decimated by injuries during his Sunday press conference.

Senior Kyle Roper, who has started eight games at center, but been in and out because of a knee injury the past few games, will practice today at left guard, the spot left open after the loss of Stephen Parker to a strained hamstring. Parker is not expected to practice this week and Nutt said the junior is "very doubtful" to play in Friday's regular season finale at LSU.

That means Jonathan Luigs may make his second consecutive start at center. He started seven games at right guard, but Jeremy Harrell has performed well there the past three games since switching from defensive tackle.

"It's simply because Jonathan, that will definitely be his spot next year," Nutt said. "He's in a groove right now and we don't want to switch him back. It's easier for Kyle just because of his knowledge and experience. It's easier for him to go to guard than it is for Jonathan to go back.

"We'll see how the week goes and I'll let you know if we decide to stay with it, but right now, that's the way we would go into it."

Mitch Petrus will practice in the No. 2 left guard spot. The freshman came on midway through the second quarter of Saturday's 44-10 win against Mississippi State after Parker limped out with the injury. Nutt said Petrus received 32 snaps and graded out well in pass protection, but not as well in run blocking, an area which offensive line coach Mike Markuson is always critical.

"It's been very, very difficult," Nutt said. "Now you're makeshift and you're using Jonathan Luigs, who's done a good job, but you're having to move people in that aren't quite ready yet.

"It's just a fast-forward, crash course in the toughest league in America."

In his first start on the offensive line, Harrell was solid and continues to give the Hogs plenty of "fight," something Nutt said would be needed against a tough LSU defense. His play is what has allowed coaches to insert Roper at left guard, a position he played early in his career.

"I'm hoping it will be good (against LSU)," Nutt said. "You get one more experienced guy back on the field which always helps. Keep (tackles Tony) Ugoh and Robert Felton and keep them going.

"Try to get your best five out there and that's our best five."

Bouncing 'Backs'

Coming off their worst performance of the season in a 28-17 win at Ole Miss, Arkansas freshmen tailbacks Darren McFadden and Felix Jones gave running backs coach Danny Nutt a call last Sunday night.

"They said they wanted to get the running game going," Houston Nutt said. "They were very down, very depressed about the Ole Miss game and about how we had just done a terrible job in the running game and they wanted that back."

They bounced back by combining for 236 yards on 31 carries (7.6 yards per attempt) against MSU. McFadden became the seventh Southeastern Conference freshman to reach 1,000 yards with 165 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He also snapped the UA freshman record for touchdowns (10).

Nutt said McFadden's straight ahead running style has been instrumental.

"The one thing about our league, especially when you're playing the upper notch teams, you better hit the hole," Nutt said. "There's not time for dancing or thinking, you have to hit it and hit it with full speed every time, that's your only chance."

Who's Calling?

Despite success passing the past three games, Nutt said there has been no change in the way he goes about calling plays. Arkansas lined up in several more three- and four-wide receiver sets than usual on Sunday. The difference has been because of true freshman Casey Dick's emergence as an efficient passer.

"You're not afraid to turn (Dick) loose a little bit, so we've expanded it quite a bit in a few week period," Nutt said.

According to Nutt, Markuson continues to give input on running plays while passing game coordinator Roy Wittke has kept providing input on pass plays. Nutt said their roles "haven't change any" since the start of the season. The entire offensive staff contributes to each week's game plan.

"Most of it's done during the week where we know the top three plays in each situation," Nutt said. "Once we have that down and that's what the preparation is about, I think anybody can call them. It goes by instinct from then on ... gut feeling."

Defense Earns Praise

Take away three plays and Arkansas' defense would have surrendered only 42 yards during Saturday's win. The Bulldogs averaged three yards per play and didn't gain a first down until late in the first half. Plus, the 10 points were the fewest the Hogs have allowed since a 35-3 win against Ole Miss last season.

"Our defense is just growing up and getting better," Nutt said. "(Defensive linemen) Jamaal Anderson, Keith Jackson, Desmond Sims, Marcus Harrison, those guys just played really, really hard. I think they set the tempo."

Anderson and Jackson led the team with eight tackles apiece, including three stops for loss by Anderson. He has spearheaded a defense that's had 42 stops for loss in the past four games.

"Where he's really improved is his pass rush technique," Nutt said. "If you noticed in the last couple of weeks, he's really playing football. He doesn't stay blocked and is making a lot of plays for us."

Death Valley

Friday's game will be Dick's third start and second on the road. The atmosphere in LSU's Tiger Stadium is arguably the rowdiest in the SEC, if not the country.

"No problem," Nutt said. "He's proved to us at Oxford (Miss.) and the way he's handled himself that he can handle it."

Teams have brought plenty of pressure after the true freshman in his first three outings. He still has managed a 128.77 quarterback rating (which with more snaps would be seventh in the SEC) by completing 41 of 71 passes for 436 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions.

"(Dick) was taking some huge hits on some missed assignments and getting right back up and the very next play, it's a completion," Nutt said. "It shows you a lot about his courage, his attitude, his toughness. That's a real quality to me that a quarterback has to have."

Keeping Up With Jones

Few team have been able to keep up with Jones, the Hogs' freshman who leads the nation with 33.7 yards per kick return. Against MSU, he became the seventh Razorback and first since 1994 to return a kick 100-yards for a touchdown.

"Felix Jones just continues to get better," Nutt said. "He has an awfully big play. They just scored and he just really puts out any hopes they have with that 100-yard return."

Before Saturday, Jones hadn't return a kick in three games as teams have been avoiding kicking in his direction.

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