Tuesday Grid Update, 10/3

One key player didn't practice, but the rest of the news was pretty positive as Arkansas got back to work on Tuesday. The Hogs play at No. 2 Auburn on Saturday.

Marcus Monk wasn't able to practice Tuesday, but most of the other walking wounded were back to running and throwing as Arkansas worked for a little over two hours in preparations for a trip to play No. 2 Auburn.

Monk is bothered by a mild shoulder bruise sustained against Alabama. He took the day off as a precautionary measure and is expected to return on Wednesday and be close to full speed by Saturday.

"I wouldn't read too much into it," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said of Monk's idle day. "The good thing is that it gave London Crawford and Chris Baker a few more snaps and they looked good."

Quarterback Mitch Mustain said a sore shoulder felt "fine" for the first time in several weeks on Tuesday.

"It's been something that has been going on for awhile and it was fine today," Mustain said.

Mustain rested his shoulder all of last week and said it still felt "funny or a little weird" on Sunday when he tried to throw in an extended practice. But that funny feeling was gone on Tuesday.

"There were no problems at all today," Mustain said. "It was feeling good all day."

Casey Dick also got plenty of snaps at quarterback because Nutt said, "We didn't want Mitch to over throw today and we want to keep giving Casey some snaps. He's practiced well the last two weeks. Mitch threw it well and we want to keep his arm strong."

Peyton Hillis had a bounce in his step after sitting out most of the last two weeks of workouts with a thigh bruise.

"We are going to get him in the plan this week and he looked healthy today," Mustain said. "You could tell he was moving pretty good and he had a good day."

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn worked with Hillis extensively after practice and liked what he saw.

"He's pretty close to 100 percent now and he looked good," Malzahn said. "We want to get him more involved, get him more touches this week. He's a weapon and he's healthy now."

Nutt said, "Peyton looks ready. He really looks good. We are going to try to get him more involved and keep him on the field more."

The head coach thought the Hogs had a strong practice. He said it followed an equally impressive workout on Sunday.

"You give them two days off and you usually have some that don't make it back on time, four or five," Nutt said. "Not this group, not this time. They were all here and very focused.

"They are focused because they know this is going to be a real game. Auburn has their attention."

Mustain called it a "very good practice" and noted some things in the game plan that excite the offensive players.

"We are comfortable with the game plan," Mustain said. "We have some new stuff, things that all of us like."

Neither Mustain nor Malzahn would reveal the "new stuff." Malzahn said, "We aren't going to increminate ourselves by discussing game plans."

Mustain hopes to improve on his performances of the last two weeks when interceptions were a problem.

"I could have done better than what I did the last two weeks," he said. "It's important for me to play better."

Asked about not having Monk at practice, Mustain said, "Obviously, he's a key player for us. We didn't have him today, but we still looked sharp and that's a good sign for us."

Malzahn said he's never seen Mustain struggle after an off performance, but he couldn't remember very many bad days.

"About the last one I remember was at the end of his junior year against Little Rock Central when he broke his arm," Malzahn said. "Obviously, we didn't play the next week. We had a full offseason before we played again."

Did he expect the interceptions to shake his confidence?

"No, I don't," he said. "Hopefully, he'll play better. Mentally, he's practiced well. He will be facing the toughest environment he's ever seen and he'll play against a great defense with great speed.

"What we have to do better is not put him in so many bad situations. We put him in some bad situations (against Alabama). The goal is to protect the football and not get us beat at the quarterback position."

Malzahn noted an improved burst from tailback Darren McFadden in practice Sunday and Tuesday.

"I see a lot quicker step in Darren," Malzahn said. "He hasn't been full speed, but he might be now. He looks quicker and healthier to me."

Malzahn said his challenge as offensive coordinator is to "get the ball to our best players" more effectively.

"I have to do a better job there," he said. "We need more than 50 snaps and that means staying on the field more.

"The goal is to score points. If we can do a better job there, the number of plays is not relevant. But we have to do one or the other and hopefully both -- stay on the field and improve the time of possession and to score more points.

"I'm not a patient person. It's been frustrating. We have to score more points."

Asked about the hurry up, no huddle offense, Malzahn said, "We still have it and we just have to see how it goes the rest of the year."

The key to the offense, no matter the style, Malzahn said, will be to do a better job on third down conversions.

"We've improved some there, but we still have to improve some more," Malzahn said. "We have to be more consistent on third downs. That is what we talked to the team about today before we came out. The way to get more consistency on third downs in games is to do it on the practice field. We were better today."

Does that mean a bigger dose of short passing and fewer chances down the field?

"Our vertical game has been better, but we have to do a better job on the intermediate and possession passing game," he said. "One complements the other. You have to have both.

"What you see is that you struggle in some areas anytime you are breaking in a freshman quarterback. It's hard when you have a new quarterback. That's not making an excuse, it's just stating a fact."

Limiting turnovers will help the time of possession issues.

"We want to be balanced and we are working hard to get there as far as improved passing, but you can't have turnovers," Malzahn said. "That's the one thing that stands out, the turnovers. If we had done a better job on the turnovers, we'd be feeling a lot better about where we are right now."

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