Tuesday Grid Report, 9/19

Arkansas made a couple of personnel switches at linebacker for this week's Alabama game. Matt Hewitt and Anthony Brown were in the rotation as the Hogs look for depth at linebacker.

Anthony Brown found a different numbered jersey in his locker for the third time in four weeks Tuesday when the senior moved to outside linebacker.

Brown donned No. 48 for Tuesday's workout as he moved back to defense after spending the last two weeks at wide receiver, his position two years ago in his redshirt season with the Hogs. He opened the last two seasons as the starter at right defensive end, but injuries slowed him both times.

"We moved Anthony back to defense because we need bodies at linebacker," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "He got some reps there and so did Matt Hewitt."

Nutt had announced on Sunday at his media briefing that Hewitt would move from free safety to outside linebacker.

Both Hewitt and Brown said after Tuesday's practice that things went well for them during the workout. Neither indicated any problems with the move and thought they performed well.

"I think Coach (Reggie) Herring liked it," Brown said. "We were both going 100 percent."

Nutt said the defense worked on a lot of tackling drills, mostly in open-field situations. There was one point in the practice that there were four different tackling drills going on at the same time.

"We worked on wrapping up," Nutt said. "We had a good practice today.

"On the linebacker situation, Matt Hewitt had a good practice. He took a good first step today."

The Hogs will look at Hewitt and Brown throughout the week. Hewitt worked at first team strongside linebacker. Brown worked on the weakside behind Sam Olajubutu.

Cornerback Darius Vinnett returned to practice, but he limped off late in the day.

"We got him back for a few plays, but the bad news is that he didn't make it until the end," secondary coach Louis Campbell said. "He just hasn't been able to stay healthy. He looked good while he was out there."

Peyton Hillis wasn't in full pads. He took the day off with what Nutt called a "thigh bruise." The head coach said Hillis is expected to return to practice Wednesday and play against Alabama. Reporters asked if Hillis could possibly play linebacker, but Nutt said that will not happen.

"Peyton? He's too valuable in the role we have him now, fullback and H-back and returning kicks," Nutt said. "We need him right there."

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said the offense does not want to give up Hillis.

"His role will increase now that our tailbacks are healthy," Malzahn said. "There are things we want to do with him, but we've had to work him a lot at tailback the last few weeks with all of the tailbacks banged up. We've got our tailbacks healthy now and we can do more things with Peyton. He's had to take a lot of reps in practice at tailback and that takes him away from other things we want to work with him on. That took away some flexibility we wanted for him at the other spots.

"But he's played a role for us. Even though he hasn't gotten the ball alot, defenses have to account for him."

Malzahn said he knows to expect improved athletic ability and a solid game plan when the Hogs face Alabama and defensive coordinator Joe Kines.

"He's a very sound coach and he'll do a good job," Malzahn said. "We know they have very good athletes and a top secondary."

Asked if Kines will blitz true freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain, Malzahn said, "They are going to try to put pressure on Mitch. Vandy tried to do the same things. We'll try to have some things ready for that."

The offense isn't perfect yet, but it is a work in progress.

"We are not where we need to be, but the good news is that we are improving," Malzahn said. "We improved last week. The thing is we are playing a lot of young guys with some veterans. That's a positive in that we are still improving and winning while we do it.

"Mitch is geting better. He's making plays and not turning it over while he's doing it. That's the number one goal. We are trying to put him in good situations."

Special teams coach James Shibest said he was pleased with the performance of Jeremy Davis against Vandy.

"I'm proud of Jeremy because he hung in there," Shibest said. "I noticed in the pre-game against Southern Cal that he was starting to kick it better. The ball started to jump off his foot and you could tell he was kicking better. I remembered that from the pre-game that night.

"And, when we came back to work on the kicking after the Utah State game, he was kicking it pretty good. In warmups, I just got a calm feeling about him kicking that day. I felt calm about it because that is the way he looked to me. I just felt better about him. He kicked it very well in warmups and he seemed so relaxed about it.

"Hey, I'm proud for him. Remember, he was our punter as a freshman. Then Skinner took the job back last year. Then, this year, he came in thinking he might get the job and when we broke camp, he was number three. So he's hung in there and now he's our kicker."

Davis was behind Stephen Arnold and Dan Bailey after fall camp. Bailey quit the team and left school when Arnold got the nod as the starting kicker.

"Like I've said, he didn't complain, he didn't quit or anything, he just kept working," Shibest said.

Davis said it was a matter of finding the sweet spot.

"All summer, I worked on hitting the sweet spot of the ball, the spot that when you hit it, the ball jumps," Davis said. "All summer, I was hitting the sweet spot. Then, when we came in for fall camp, I wasn't hitting the sweet spot anymore. I don't know why. I just wasn't. I kinda got that back about the time of the Southern Cal game. The ball started jumping again."

Did he get down when he didn't get the nod in preseason?

"No, because I've been through that before," Davis said. "I knew I wasn't kicking well. I understood. I knew what to do, too. I had to get back to kicking it good. I had to get back out there and work and figure out how to hit the sweet spot. That's what I concentrated on and I got it back."

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