Thursday Grid Update, 8/24

The depth chart was released Thursday and that led to several thoughts following a long, hot practice as the Hogs got closer to game week. The placekicker, a new first teamer at right guard and a clearer picture at wideout were front and center topics. The depth chart is included with this story.

The hot topic after Arkansas completed Thursday's football practice was the depth chart and the starting lineup for the Southern Cal game on Sept. 2.

Most positions were the same as the preseason lineup, except in the offensive line where Nate Garner has made a push for playing time at both right guard and right tackle where he's a co-starter at both positions.

The other major news in the depth chart concerned placekicker where sophomore Stephen Arnold has edged ahead of true freshman Dan Bailey for the starting spot.

True freshman Damian Williams is listed as the co-starter just behind Cedric Washington at the flanker spot.

Otherwise, everything else was the same as far as starting spots as it was before fall camp. The only other "or" around a starting spot was at punt returner where Cedric Washington has closed the gap on Peyton Hillis and is listed as the alternate there, too.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said it's been a very competitive camp. He aches for a little more competition for the backup linebacker spots where freshmen are penciled in at several spots.

"The placekicker job has been interesting and highly competitive," Nutt said. "Arnold and Bailey were both very good. It was a tough call. That's a good thing because both kicked well all through camp, especially the last week."

Special teams coach James Shibest said he told his kickers two days ago that Arnold had won the job, but Nutt didn't want to announce it until Thursday to make sure the deciscion was correct.

"I wanted to see them a couple more times, put a little more pressure on them," Nutt said. "They both continued to kick well."

Shibest said Arnold might not have the best range of the kickers, but he hit the ball consistently well every time.

"The football comes off his foot the same time after time," Shibest said. "There are no pulls or pushes. It goes end over end and looks exactly the way it's supposed to look in the air. His range is 45-47 and consistently good in that range.

"Bailey has the stronger leg. He can go 55 yards. So there is still a place for him. We are still looking at travel rosters to try to get him on the plane, too. If we have an end of the half or end of the game situation and need a longer kick, it might be Bailey."

Is the race over?

"For now it is," Shibest said. "We want to get behind Stephen right now. He's our man for our opener. He's done well in all three areas we charted -- scrimmages, live work in team and in all the other practice situations. We charted all three areas with each of our kickers. We had a lot of data.

"The good news is that we had two that did consistently well every time in all three areas. We considered everything, including experience. Stephen is a second year player here and that helped him a little in our decision."

Garner has been drawing consistent praise from offensive line coach Mike Markuson over the last two weeks. Garner, 6-6, 325-pound junior, moved ahead of returning starter Robert Felton at right guard a couple of days ago and will start, according to Markuson.

"We list them as co-starters, but for the first play, it's going to be Nate Garner," Markuson said. "He's earned it. He's had a great summer. He's stronger and more confident. Right now, he's playing better than Felton. Felton has responded the last two days, but I think Garner has worked himself into a starter. He's what you hope you have every year, a guy who becomes a player in his fourth year, someone who keeps working and makes himself into a player in your offensive line.

"Garner has just really matured. Now Robert is going to play a lot, too. We'll see how they perform in a game. That will give us something to check.

"We've got a nice rotation on the right side now. Tubbs is at right tackle, and Nate knows it, too. Nate is at right guard and Robert knows that and right tackle. So we have three guys that can play both spots. We've looked at them in all scenarios.

"Nate has really pushed himself and done a great job this summer and again in fall camp. He's ready to play. He deserves a lot of credit for the way he's practiced and prepared to play. He's strong, aggressive and confident. He has the knowledge and he has the physical presence to be a good player there. He's going to have a great year."

Nutt said, "We love the way Garner has brought it every day in practice. He earned playing time. He's got that plus-400 pound bench and he plays with his strength. He has forced Robert Felton to pick up the pace. Robert may have been coasting a little and Nate got his spot. Robert is going now, but when someone gets your spot sometimes it's tough to get it back. There won't be anymore coasting there."

Nutt was pleased with Thursday's workout on a hot, long, full-padded workout.

"Our quarterbacks have performed very well over the last several days, especially that man," Nutt said, pointing to Robert Johnson strolling ahead of him leaving the practice field.

"Robert has been very solid and consistent. We feel good about both our quarterbacks, but Robert has impressed."

2006 Depth Chart

OFFENSE
SE
85 - Marcus Monk, 6-6, 222, JR
28 - Chris Baker, 6-1, 201, JR
13 - Rod Coleman, 6-2, 182, FR


LT
66 - Tony Ugoh, 6-5, 300, SR
78 - Jose Valdez, 6-6, 304, SO


LG
74 - Stephen Parker, 6-4, 313, SR
67 - Jeremy Harrell, 6-2, 303, SR


C
63 - Jonathan Luigs, 6-4, 305, SO
67 - Jeremy Harrell, 6-2, 303, SR


RG
75 - Nate Garner, 6-6, 325, JR
OR 61 - Robert Felton, 6-4, 321, JR


RT
69 - Zac Tubbs, 6-6, 330, SR
OR 75 - Nate Garner, 6-6, 325, JR


TE
89 - Wes Murphy, 6-3, 250, SR
82 - Andrew Davie, 6-6, 273, FR


FL
10 - Cedric Washington, 6-0, 200, SR
OR 1 - Damian Williams, 6-1, 188, FR
7 - Reggie Fish, 5-7, 161, SO


QB 18 - Robert Johnson, 6-2, 216, JR 16 - Mitch Mustain, 6-3, 205, FR 15 - Clark Irwin, 6-0, 189, SO

TB
25 - Felix Jones, 6-0, 208, SO
22 - Peyton Hillis, 6-2, 238, JR
21 - Michael Smith, 5-7, 170, FR


FB
22 - Peyton Hillis, 6-2, 238, JR
33 - Farod Jackson, 6-0, 240, JR
OR 44 Mitch Petrus, 6-5, 284, SO


DEFENSE

LE
92 - Jamaal Anderson, 6-6, 262, JR
94 - Chris Wade, 6-6, 255, JR
96 - Malcolm Sheppard, 6-2, 250, FR


LT
55 - Marcus Harrison, 6-3, 311, JR
90 - Ernest Mitchell, 6-2, 296, SO


RT
99 - Keith Jackson, 6-0, 292, SR
98 - Cord Gray, 6-2, 282, JR
95 - Fred Bledsoe, 6-3, 305, JR


RE
91 - Anthony Brown, 6-6, 228, SR
OR 97 - Antwain Robinson, 6-3, 253, SO
93 - Marcus Shavers, 6-3, 275, SO


WLB
24 - Sam Olajabutu, 5-9, 222, SR
41 - Ryan Powers, 6-2, 200, FR
OR 40 - Adrian Davis, 6-4, 200, FR


MLB
23 - Desmond Sims, 6-3, 232, SR
30 - Weston Dacus, 6-2, 227, JR
47 - Wendel Davis, 6-1, 210, FR


SLB
44 - Freddie Fairchild, 6-2, 211, SO
45 - Desmond Williams, 6-2, 207, SO
49 - Mark Bonner, 6-1,192, SO


LC
2 - Chris Houston, 5-11, 181, JR
29 - Jamar Love, 6-1, 193, SO
OR 27 - Jerell Norton, 6-1, 180, FR


SS
6 - Randy Kelly, 6-0, 185, SR
43 - Dallas Washington, 6-0, 212, SO
OR 3 - Kevin Woods, 5-10, 195, JR


FS
8 - Michael Grant, 5-11, 196, JR
31 - Matt Hewitt, 6-3, 208, JR
38 - Elston Forte, 6-1, 200, SO


RC
9 - Matterral Richardson, 6-0, 194, JR
20 - John Johnson, 5-10, 194, JR
17 - Shedrick Johnson, 5-10, 183, SO


SPECIAL TEAMS


KO
52 - Brian Vavra, 5-11, 175, SO


PK
59 - Stephen Arnold, 6-0, 186, SO
53 - Dan Bailey, 6-0, 212, FR


P
14 - Jacob Skinner, 6-3, 212, SR
50 - Jeremy Davis, 5-9, 195, SO


SNP
51 - Brett Goode, 6-1, 229, SR


HOL
14 - Jacob Skinner, 6-3, 212, SR


KR
25 - Felix Jones, 6-0, 208, SO
22 - Peyton Hillis, 6-2, 238, JR


PR
22 - Peyton Hillis, 6-2, 238, JR
OR 10 - Cedric Washington, 6-0, 200, SR

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