Arkansas will be without starting tight end Wes Murphy for Saturday's conference opener at Vanderbilt, head coach Houston Nutt confirmed after practice Thursday afternoon.
Nutt said Murphy will be in Boston to attend the funeral of his grandfather, who passed away earlier this week. The funeral is set for noon Saturday.
"His grandfather helped raise Wes," Nutt said. "Wes is the oldest grandson and his grandmother wanted him there. We understand."
Murphy left the team Tuesday after learning of his grandfather's passing.
Mason Templeton, a part-time starter last year, and freshman Andrew Davie will enter the game as co-starter. It is expected that both would play.
Nutt was asked if freshman Ben Cleveland could play some tight end.
"No, he's got a big enough role elsewhere," Nutt said. "He'll stay at wide receiver."
Nutt was also asked if the Hogs have considered moving Cleveland to linebacker, a depth-shy position and a spot that Cleveland played in high school.
"No, right now, he's got a role at wide receiver and we have enough depth at linebacker," Nutt said. "He'll stay where he's at."
Tailback Felix Jones had a solid day Thursday after struggling with a sore back on Tuesday. Nutt said Jones was ready to play.
"Felix looked good," Nutt said. "So did Michael Smith. I'd say Michael has improved every practice. He's had a very good week."
The head coach said freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain has also "had a very good week." He said Mustain was prepared for his first SEC road start.
Nutt would not make a call on the starter at placekicker. He said both Jeremy Davis and Stephen Arnold would travel and that there would be a decision at during pre-game warmups.
That's also the way the Hogs will handle the playing status of senior corner Darius Vinnett, recovering from surgery to the knee area. Vinnett would travel and could be available for limited duty.
Secondary coach Louis Campbell said, "It it was tonight, Darius would probably not play. But we've got two more nights. We'll see where he is at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. He may be able to give us a few plays, but not many."
Campbell said the Hogs will go into the game trying to get some turnovers from Vanderbilt, but that's the same as it is in every game.
"By design, every offense is setup not to give you any turnovers," Campbell said. "Some are a little more conservative than others. I'd say Vanderbilt's strategy is to shorten the game and make it hard for you to get any turnovers. But that doesn't mean we won't be trying.
"They do throw it and they do try to go to some very good wide receivers, so you might get some chances. They do have fine wide receivers, but that's the way it is every week in the SEC.
"What you see this week is a team that is very well coached in all areas. They don't make a lot of mistakes. What I see is a team that emphasizes everything and does a great job in all areas. I'll point out that what you see in Vanderbilt is solid football, espcially in the kicking game. You see a real emphasis in the kicking game. That's what I see as being different when you get into SEC play, the way a team emphasizes all phases.
"We saw their wide receivers last year as being very good. And, that's how they played all year. They were solid in all games at wideout. They made plays on us and they made plays on other teams. Our players remember them. They know what to expect."
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