The kicking game got a long hard look at the start of practice Tuesday, as the Hogs went in full pads for over two hours in preparation for the SEC opener at Vanderbilt.
"Stephen Arnold was better today," head coach Houston Nutt said of the placekicker who missed an extra point and a field goal against Utah State.
"Jeremy Davis kicked the ball well today."
Asked if his work Tuesday had restored the kicker's confidence, Nutt said, "Making one in a game is what will do that for him. We are going to continue to look hard at placekicker."
Arnold missed a 32-yarder from the left hash in practice, but nailed two other kicks and all of his extra points. Davis made all of his kicks and hit the ball with authority.
"I missed the one from the left hash, just like in the game," Arnold said. "It was mechanical in the game. I just didn't hit it right today, but the mechanics were right. We got the mechanics fixed on Sunday."
Asked about feeling the pressure after the misses, Arnold said, "We got that taken care of Sunday. That was the pressure day. It's behind me now. I'm over that and ready to kick in a game."
Nutt said kicking would be important Saturday.
"It could be decided by from one to three points and so we know we have to improve there," he said.
Tight end Wes Murphy was not at practice. He left campus early in the afternoon after learning of his grandfather's death in Atlanta. He caught a flight for Atlanta and the funeral will be later this week in Boston.
Asked if Murphy would return for the game, Nutt said, "We aren't sure. That's up in the air right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family right now."
Nutt said the Hogs had a "good learning day" on Vanderbilt's alignment and playbook. He said the goal for the day was to try to "play fast and without mistakes. To do that in the SEC, you have to know your assigments so you can play fast. We are going to play a good, gutsy, physical SEC team. We know they are a good team. If any team knows it, our team knows it."
Defensively, the Hogs went about the task of replaceing strong linebacker Freddie Fairchild, out for the season with an ACL knee injury. Weston Dacus moved to his spot in the starting lineup after starting the Utah State game at middle linebacker. Desmond Sims will start at middle linebacker.
Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring said Adrian Davis is the backup at strong linebacker, Wendell Davis in the middle and Ryan Powers behind Sam Olajubutu on the weakside.
"We are just trying to play hard and fast and work on our endurance," Dacus said. "The way you do that is treat every play in practice like it's in a game and is your last play. You work on your focus. If you focus hard, you put plays together in a row at the highest level and that ends up helping your endurance. Endurance comes along with staying focused."
Cornerback Darius Vinnett returned to practice on a limited basis, but without full pads. He is recovering from ligament surgery just below the knee. He may miss a couple of more weeks.
London Crawford and Robert Johnson had solid days at wide receiver, according to offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
"They are both in the mix and will be factors in this game," Malzahn said. "Robert was very physical today. He had a good day. London is coming on. We need his speed out there. Both of them got a lot of plays today."
Crawford said, "I am feeling much better with my knee. It's full go now. I came back right at the end of camp and had missed so much. The coaches told me they were going to bring me along and that's what they've done. I had this injury in high school once and I changed the way I walked because of it. It came back on me a little bit this August. But it's gone now.
"The coaches told me I had to wait a bit because guys were ahead of me because of the time I missed. I understood that. I've waited and now they are going to me. I am going to try to make some plays."
Tuesday Grid Update, 9/12
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