Tuesday Grid Update, 9/5

Mitch Mustain debuted as the starting quarterback in Tuesday's workout with praise from his head coach. The Hogs worked two hours in full pads.

Robert Johnson drew praise as a "team player" by anyone asked for a comment Tuesday as the Mitch Mustain era began with a two-hour full pads practice Tuesday afternoon.

With Mustain installed as Arkansas' starting quarterback and Casey Dick as the backup, Johnson worked at flanker on a mild afternoon on the practice fields.

"Robert is a great example as far as attitude," said Houston Nutt, the head coach. "He's got a tremendous work ethic. He's highly intelligent and he had a good first day at wide receiver."

Meanwhile, Mustain, the true freshman from Springdale, drew praise for his first day with the first team.

"Mitch did good," Nutt said. "He was thinking about the game plan. Casey also did good. And, Robert was good at wide receiver."

Mustain took the bulk of the snaps, perhaps 90 percent, per Nutt's announcement on Sunday.

"Mitch stepped on the field today with confidence," Nutt said. "He handled today just like he's handled everything he's done since he's been here. He's going to get the work.

"He's been very mature. He has great focus. He doesn't say much, but he's a great listener. That's what I noticed today.

"We had a good work day. We concentrated hard on eliminating our mistakes. We worked on getting rid of the offsides, the illegal procedure penalties and the missed assignments. It's tough enough to beat the other 11, but tougher when you give them things. We worked hard on protecting the football. We worked hard on being physical."

Darren McFadden and Felix Jones split time at tailback, with McFadden getting work at wide receiver and flanker, too.

"I feel like I'm about 60 to 70 percent right now," McFadden said. "But I'll get better as we go along. I'm just trying to get back into the flow."

Nutt added, "It was good to have Darren back at practice on a fulltime basis, with no interruptions. He's going to continue to improve and get himself back to normal."

Nutt took the green jerseys off his running backs, cut did not tackle them to the ground.

"I just hate the green jerseys, but we told our team not to take them (to the ground)," Nutt said. "I just don't like green jerseys. Our players know to leave those backs alone. We don't need the green jerseys."

Nutt said Jones had a good day.

"Felix did great today," Nutt said. "We'll continue to give him a big role. He's like Peyton Hillis and Michael Smith. We'll need all of them. They just need to keep working. We worked hard on ball security. We need to just keep working. We are going to improve and we are going to improve the way we run the ball."

Gus Malzahn, the Hogs' offensive coordinator, liked what he saw of his new quarterback and was not surprised at the way he handled his first day with the first unit.

"What I do know about Mitch Mustain is that pressure will not bother him," Malzahn said. "He had an immense amount of pressure last year all season. What he went through was very pressure packed. He had the entire state wanting him to come to their school. That's pressure. He handled that well and played well with that going on. He can handle pressure.

"He's ready. He told me he's ready.

"By the same token, he'll make mistakes. He's made them in the past. What I know about him is that he learns from his mistakes and gets better.

"Robert Johnson had an excellent day. The good thing, he knows our offense inside and out. He knows the big picture things. He knows our hot checks and our reads. He knows the plays and the routes and he is a phenomenal athlete. He still has to learn the finer things and read things from a different perspective.

"But he'll do fine because he has a great work ethic. He's such a great example for the rest of our players. They may not like the way things are going for them and not handle it right. But when they see the way Robert has handled his situation, they see the right way. Robert is a great worker, he trusts his coaches and he does what is asked of him."

Malzahn said the Hogs are working hard to regain a physical presence in practice this week.

"We want to find that mentality again this week in practice and then take it to the game," Malzahn said. "We have to carry that to the game."

Does that mean a change in game plans?

"I'm not going to get into that," he said. "We aren't going to give away any secrets."

In that vein, Robert Felton moved to first team right guard for Tuesday. Nate Garner was moved to backup right tackle behind Zac Tubbs. Jeremy Harrell took the backup snaps at right guard.

"That's the way we are for right now," Nutt said. "Robert did some good things, but we are still looking at that position. Nate is going to work at tackle right now."

Backup cornerback John Johnson (knee) did not practice. Backup linebacker Desmond Williams did not practice because of a concussion.

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