Thursday Grid Update, 9/2l

Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt was asked about the availability of starting fullback Peyton Hillis after Thursday's practice. Will the junior back play against the Crimson Tide this week?

Farod Jackson and Mitch Petrus shared the work at fullback as starter Peyton Hillis continued to spend his time in the training room trying to rehab a thigh bruise. Houston Nutt called Hillis "doubtful" after Thursday's workout for Saturday's game with Alabama.

The football Hogs finished their heavy preparation for the week. Nutt said it was a good "mental" day and that the coaches and team look forward to the battle with Alabama.

"It's always a good, close game," Nutt said. "We look forward to playing them."

There was other news on the injury report. Cornerback Jerrell Norton, a true freshman, sustained a knee injury at the start of the workout when his cleats grabbed on a cut while covering a punt. Norton was helped from the field. It wasn't known as far as the seriousness of the injury.

Nutt said defensive tackle Marcus Harrison did not go through the heavy part of the drill while nursing a knee injury.

"We'll have to wait and see on Marcus," Nutt said. "He didn't have range of motion today. He should be better by game time. We think he will play."

Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker also expects Harrison to be close to full speed for the game. He said the rest of the defensive line is in good shape as far as injuries. Ernest Mitchell, Cord Gray and Malcolm Shepard all logged time at defensive tackle with Harrison out.

"It's going to come down to stopping the run," Houston Nutt said. "We will have to do a great job against tailback Kenneth Darby to get off the field on defense. And, our offense needs to do a great job of staying on the field."

Nutt said forecasts suggest rain for Saturday's 2:30 p.m. kickoff and he said that shouldn't be a major factor.

"Our offense has a good ground game and a high percentage passing game," Nutt said. "We won't have to change anything. We are already ready for (the chance of rain). Either way, we are good."

Backfield coach Danny Nutt said Hillis didn't appear to be badly injured on Sunday.

"We didn't think it was this bad, but it hasn't loosened up," Nutt said. "We still have some time. I know how tough he is. If he can go, he'll play. He played two weeks after breaking bones in his back. He'll play, I think. I expect him to be ready."

If not?

"Mitch and Farod have had good weeks," Danny Nutt said. "They both have very good hands and have caught the ball well this week. We won't have to change much. They have paid their dues. They are ready to play.

"The bad part of the Hillis injury is that he's missed three or four days of practice and it's hard to learn the game plan in the 48 hours we have left. Still, you expect him to be back and help this team if he can."

Safety Randy Kelly should be rested and ready. Because of the need to play three corners against Vandy's spread with three wideouts, Kelly played only two snaps last week against the Commodores. He'll get plenty of snaps this week, according to secondary coach Louis Campbell.

"Kelly played a lot the first two weeks, but the way it worked out, he got only two (snaps) last week," Campbell said. "The good thing, he was as happy as anyone else in the locker room afterwards. He was glad we won. I was proud of the way he handled it. No one is happy when they don't play, but he understood the situtation and handled it like a mature senior.

"In this game, we'll play two corners and two safeties a lot. He'll have a big role, just like the first two weeks."

His role will be just like the rest of the UA defense, to get Darby to the ground.

"He can't do it alone," Campbell said. "You don't get that back down with one man. You gang tackle him. He'll need help and he'll have to help others. I will say that he'll get plenty of opportunities to tackle someone."

Tackling was a big point of emphasis this week, but that was nothing new.

"We spend time every day on tackling," Campbell said. "We have drills for all different things.

"We've got some who don't bring their feet. We have some who don't have very good balance. We have some who don't wrap up. We have some that need work in all areas.

"Those are the three areas where you see problems. Each player has the area that he needs work on and we have drills for all of that.

"For instance, Randy Kelly has a tendency not to wrap up. Michael Grant has a tendency to get out of balance.

"What you want to see is a defensive back who accellerates with his feet under him, keeps his balance and then wraps up. That's the fundamentals we stress and work on every day with different drills. We'll need all of that this week against Darby. We worked on open field balance and we worked on bringing your feet under you this week a lot."

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