Tuesday Grid Update, 10/24

Arkansas is 6-1 and 4-0 in the SEC, but Houston Nutt thinks his team still has room to get better.

Arkansas began the task of preparing for a 1-6 Louisiana-Monroe team, but head coach Houston Nutt said he was pleased with the way Tuesday's first full padded workout of the week.

"As far as Tuesday is concerned, we got a good start," Nutt said. "I'll hold judgment for the rest of the week. We had an excellent workout. It's a good start.

"The key is that our team was extremely focused on wanting to get better. We showed them the film on Sunday and pointed out the places where we could get better and they saw it clearly.

"As a group, they know they can get better. We have to get better in every way. We are focused on getting better."

Nutt knows ULM, a big underdog, has the option of rolling the dice since the Warhawks have been having trouble winning this season.

"They can fake every punt and fake every field goal, really take some chances," Nutt said. "We'll have to be ready for every possible situation."

Antwain Robinson, bothered by an injury, was able to practice and may try to play.

"He was able to practice today," Nutt said. "He's got some swelling, but sometimes you have to know the difference between pain and injury. He'll try to go."

Wideout Cedric Washington, out last week with a concussion, was able to practice some.

"But he still had some headaches," Nutt said. "If the headaches don't completely go away, he won't play on Saturday. That's the rule."

Darius Vinnett, also bothered by concussions, practiced a bit on Tuesday. His availability this week is still up in th air.

It was clear that Sam Olajubutu will not play this week, although the Hogs are hopeful to have him the following week for South Carolina.

"We'll miss Sam this week," Nutt said. "When he wasn't on the field last week, you could tell we lost some energy. We were not the same on defense.

"He brings energy, leadership and the ability to get people lined up right. He provides a lot of confidence to the rest of the players on the field. We will miss him dearly."

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said the players and the coaches were excited to be playing their first game in Little Rock this season.

"We were talking about that last night at my house," Malzahn said. "As a high school coach, if you are playing there, it's likely your last game of the year and it is for a state title. So I have great memories of going down there."

It will be his birthday on Saturday, but he said there were no plans for anything special.

"I'm to 40 now and you don't do much past that age," Malzahn said. "The game is at 6 p.m. so there really isn't time to do anything. The game is it. I really don't celebrate birthdays anymore."

As far as the Little Rock trip, Malzahn said, "It's just real special to go play there. It will be the first time as a Razorback so that will be fun."

Malzahn said those that worry about the Hogs slim passing numbers over the last few weeks should not.

"We can and will pass more," Malzahn said. "But when you don't need to pass, there isn't much reason to do it. We are extremely focused on winning. We are winning. The last couple of games, we just haven't needed it.

"There will be some games that it's needed and required. We think we can be efficient in the passing game when needed. It will be there when we need it.

"I think it's smart to play to the strength of this team and that's a great offensive line and some great backs. That offensive line is as good as it gets.

"We can still throw it down the field when we need to do that and you'll see us do that in the future when we need to and it's there.

"We've been getting better with this offense. We've added a few new wrinkles each week. Some of it is to keep the defense off balance and some it is to make the teams we are going to play work on that so they can't spend so much time on our other stuff.

"Our big focus has been to eliminate turnovers. We've done a decent job of that the last three weeks. If you don't have turnovers, you've got a good chance to win most games."

Malzahn is pleased with the way the offense took advantage of Peyton Hillis' skills against Ole Miss.

"He's a very good player and the big thing with Peyton is that he's been banged up," Malzahn said. "He's getting his health back. He's one of our better players and he's getting healthier."

Does Malzahn fear ULM rolling out some new blitzes as a team with nothing to lose?

"You always think about that, especially with a freshman quarterback," he said. "That's a thought every week.

"You know you better be prepared for that with a freshman quarterback, to be prepared for blitzes. But when you find a way to burn the blitz, it tends to limit what they want to do in that regard. We've done that."

Malzahn has been happy with the practice focus over the last few weeks.

"These guys are pretty hungry," Malzahn said. "They have bought in to what we are teaching and giving them. They continue to get better. I know you hear that a lot, but that's so important. Now, we've got a little momentum and you see all of our players coming to meetings and coming to practice with a sense of urgency. I like what I see.

"We just want to continue to do what we have to do to win games. I'm not saying we can't throw the football and win, but winning is what is most important.

"When you start talking about productivity in football, it starts with avoiding turnovers. If you don't turn it over, especially with the way our defense is playing, you have a great chance to win the game. That's what we are focused on doing."

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