Thursday Grid Update, 8/31

There was another twist to the up-and-down saga of Darren McFadden and his injured toe. Will McFadden play against Southern Cal?

Darren McFadden was held out of practice Thursday "with a sore toe" as the Hogs wrapped up their last heavy day of workouts with a strong dose of special team situations.

Arkansas meets Southern Cal at 7:45 p.m. Saturday in the season opener for both teams. It has been widely speculated that McFadden, who returned to workouts on a limited basis Sunday, would be available for the game despite a serious toe injury in late July.

However, that plan may have hit a snag with some serious soreness Thursday after McFadden practiced Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

"I'd say he is still questionable," coach Houston Nutt said. "If he had practiced today, maybe we would have upgraded him again."

The Hogs listed him as "very doubtful" early in fall camp, and then upgraded him to "doubtful about 10 days ago. They listed him as doubtful through much of this week until Nutt upgraded him to "questionable" after Wednesday's workout.

The media watched the early portions of Thursday's workout, but did not see the team portion of the workout, the bulk of the practice. McFadden played catch with the backs early in the workout, but did not run when the media was there.

"We held out Darren today," Nutt said. "We had to hold him out because his toe was sore. I don't know (about McFadden playing against USC) after today."

Nutt switched gears from McFadden to another injured player making a comeback, sophomore quarterback Casey Dick. He said after watching Dick practice Thursday that he would "probably" list Dick as the third teamer for the game. Clark Irwin had been listed as the third quarterback behind Robert Johnson and Mitch Mustain.

"Casey looked good today, he really did," Nutt said. "We let Robert Johnson rest his arm today to have him fresh for the game. So Casey got a lot of the reps with Mitch today."

Nutt was also asked about the range of Stephen Arnold and how close the Hogs must move on offense before they are in his range.

"He's got good range, probably mid 40s, but what we do there depends on time and score," Nutt said. "I'll say right now we have as much confidence in a kicker as we've had in a long time. Stephen has been very good in camp."

Overall, Nutt said the Hogs are ready to play a game.

"It's time," Nutt said. "We want to hit someone else. Our players are excited and want to get on the field and play."

Wideout Cedric Washington did not practice for the third straight day. He's bothered with a stiff and sore back. Nutt said the plan was to check that injury with an MRI.

That left Peyton Hillis as the punt return man. Hillis will join Felix Jones on kickoff returns. It also means true freshman Damian Williams will start at wideout opposite Marcus Monk.

"Damian was already listed as the co-starter with Washington," Nutt said. "He's going to start now. I don't know what to tell you on Washington right now. We'll have to wait and see on him and we may take an MRI on him."

Nutt said he's pleased with the recovery of Dick at quarterback. That gives the Hogs two players available against USC who have starting experience, plus talented freshman Mitch Mustain.

"We are much better at quarterback than we were at this time last year," Nutt said. "We have two that have played and another good player in the freshman. All of them make better decisions than what we had at this time last year. We are glad to have all three."

The Hogs will have a walk through practice on Friday to finish their USC preparations.

"We hit all the kicking game and special team situations -- things like the good hands team and everything else you can think of that might happen," Nutt said. "It was a good mental day. That's what Thursdays are about, going over alignments and situations. We'll do that again Friday in a walk through."

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