Wednesday Grid Report, 9/20

Arkansas junior fullback Peyton Hillis misses a second straight practice and his status for Saturday's game with visiting Alabama is up in the air, but his teammates have brought the intensity this week and pleased their coaching staff.

University of Arkansas junior fullback Peyton Hillis spent Wednesday in the training room instead of on the football field, but University of Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt still still hopes to see him out there on Saturday when Alabama invades Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Hillis looked on Tuesday instead of participating in practice with a thigh bruise and never made it out ot the field on Wednesday when he instead got treatment throughout according to Nutt.

"He was a little sore again today and we probably won't know until Saturday about him," Nutt said. "...He is just bruised and sore and Dean feels like he'll get them out here when he can practice and it won't hurt him, but if it is going to hurt him and make it worse than you don't want him out here."

On the plus side, senior cornerback Darius Vinnett made it through a second straight practice - one attended by former UA and current PGA golfer John Daly - while doing more on Wednesday than he did a day earlier.

"...Vinnett is doing good, doing better, glad to see him out here and he has made two practices and is going to be out there," Nutt said. "I think he is going to be able to help us, but as far as how many plays, I don't know."

It was a practice that had Nutt enthused about his team's preparations for Alabama (3-0, 1-0), who edged visitors Hawaii (27-25) and Vanderbilt (13-10) before finally opening up a big lead in last Saturday's 41-7 win over Louisiana-Monroe.

The Razorbacks (2-1, 1-0) will be trying to get to 2-0 in SEC action for the first time since Nutt's first year as head coach back in 1998.

"It would be huge," Nutt said. "This is a big step. The bottom line and the reason Alabama is 3-0 is because they lead the league in time of possession and they lead the league in time of possession. That is the thing we have to flip. We have to win those two areas to be successful."

Nutt said that he and the other coaches are getting what they have asked for this week in practice.

"We had another good work day today and the intensity was very good," Nutt said. "I love the way the guys are focusing and that's the way you have to prepare for the SEC. I think our players always realize that when you play Alabama. It has been a good Bama week so far."

Nutt isn't expecting any surprises when it comes to Alabama, whose defense is coordinated by former UA defensive coordinator and former Razorback interim head coach Joe Kines.

"They really are pretty much the same," Nutt said. "Joe Kines' defense is typical - very sound and gives you some bad looks and different things that you have to work on. It is always trying to get you in third and long and then make you earn every yard.

"Offensively it is run the ball, run the ball, be physical, play action, run the ball, run the ball, play action," Nutt added.

Alabama will no doubt take some shots at Arkansas junior Matt Hewitt (6-3, 208), who was a safety until this week and now is a starting linebacker.

"He was much better the second day," Nutt said. "He is feeling better, getting more comfortable. He is taking his crash course and he is doing well."

Arkansas seems to have three very good tailbacks now, including redshirt freshmen Michael Smith who picked up 28 yards in the fourth quarter of the Vanderbilt game.

"There are three backs that we really depend on and that's Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and now there is Michael Smith," Nutt said. "He gave us some fresh legs and both of the other guys were a little banged up and not 100 percent so we had that in the back of our mind. Especially with the zone strategy that we had. He is one of our best zone runners and we wanted to be able to find a way to get him in the game."

Nutt says the Razorback staff feels confident about its offensive weapons now, even if some of them are young and true freshmen like quarterback Mitch Mustain and rookie wideouts Damian Williams and London Crawford.

It is good to have weapons at each position and that is what you want to be able to have at each position," Nutt said. "That's what you want - to be able to have that balance so they can zero in on you and make you one way. You want them to have to take care of every position - tight end, fullback, tailback and receivers. That is what you are trying to get to. We have to execute, still got to block and tackle."

"The team that is going to win this game is the team that can run the ball and the team that can stop the run," Nutt said.


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