Tuesday Grid Update, 11/7

The Hogs turned things over to Casey Dick as they returned to the practice field Tuesday. They will play host to Tennessee at 6 p.m. Saturday in a game televised by ESPN2.

Arkansas worked for a little over two hours with a new starting quarterback Tuesday afternoon. Casey Dick, named the starter Sunday, had a good day at the helm, but so did Mitch Mustain, the man he replaced early in the South Carolina game.

"They both practiced very well," said Gus Malzahn, offensive coordinator. "I think they both had good days. Mitch did what I thought he'd do, compete hard for the job. That's what he said he was going to do when I discussed it with him.

"We've got two fine quarterbacks. That's what I've been saying all along. Nothing has changed that."

Actually, Mustain echoed the thoughts of head coach Houston Nutt from Sunday. Nutt had said that the change of quarterbacks would give Mustain a chance to sit back and reflect and grow as a quarterback.

"I think he's right," Mustain said. "I need to watch and learn. I think it gives me a chance to reflect a little and that's probably good. It will give me a chance to get better and get my head right and get back to playing in my head the way I play best. It might be a pretty good deal. I'm just going to work hard and try to take chance to get a closer look at what I'm doing."

Casey Dick said the only difference on Tuesday was that he got "a few more reps than he'd been getting. I probably got a little more tired today than I have been getting in practice. Otherwise, it was about the same."

Interestingly, Dick said he got a feeling of deja vu earlier in the day. He said it may be a lot like last year when he took over as the starter for the final four games. It's the final three this year after taking over after the first possession this time in the fourth game from the end.

"I was thinking about that earlier today," Dick said. "Hopefully, I'll do a little better this time. That's what I'm going to try to do."

The Hogs went 2-2 in the last four games with Dick starting last year. They lost to South Carolina, beat Ole Miss and Mississippi State and then lost to LSU in the finale.

Dick said he has been feeling good since about the season's third game.

"That's when the ball started coming out of my hand pretty good and I got stronger," Dick said. "I haven't had any trouble with my back in quite some time.

"I just tried to prepare every day like it was going to be my turn. Sometimes it wasn't under center or actual plays. It was just mental reps. You know you have a chance to be the quarterback each week so you better prepare like it."

Malzahn said, "That's the way he went about it, like a competitor. That's what Mitch will do now. What I'll say about them both is that they are both tremendous competitors. Casey has been that all along."

Malzahn said Dick has been much better this fall than he was in the spring when his back bothered him over the last 10 days.

"He's better physically, but he's also much better mentally," Malzahn said. "It's been both ways. He's been a very good quarterback this fall."

The Hogs had a solid workout, Nutt said, and appear to be mostly healthy for the Tennessee game. They expect to have everyone available this week they had last week except free safety Michael Grant, now out with a torn ACL.

"Our guys have been getting treatment and getting better," Nutt said. "We'll have most everyone ready. I don't think there are any of them really that can't play."

Nutt said Kevin Woods, Elston Forte and Dallas Washington are working at Grant's free safety spot. Woods appears to be headed for his first starting assignment.

"That's the way it is if we played tonight," Nutt said of Woods.

Darren McFadden, the SEC's leading rusher, sprained an ankle on Saturday, but appears close to 100 percent already.

"He's fine," said Danny Nutt, the backfield coach. "He is doing just fine. He's okay and he's very tough. He's gotten a lot of treatment and the ankle is a lot better."

Malzahn said the offense continues to develop as the season moves along, noting the key is to keep hitting passes early in the game.

"We need to keep playing at a high level in the red zone and we didn't quite do that in the second half last week," Malzahn said. "We did come close to getting 500 yards of offense and if we'd done better in the red zone I'd have been happy.

"We have to continue to execute what we are doing. We have to get more big plays in the passing game and continue what we are doing in the running game.

"We have to continue to make plays in the passing game early in ball games. When we've made big plays in the passing game early, it's given us a big advantage. We did that the other night at South Carolina again.

"The key is to be able to keep the defense off balance. You have to keep finding different ways of doing it. You do it in a different way, but you stick with your strength. We've done that and we have to continue to do that.

"The tough part as early this year when our top three backs were banged up. That put us behind. Since we've been healthy and had them on the (practice) field, we've been pretty good. We just need to keep doing what we are doing."

Another key will be to find a second wideout to pair with Marcus Monk. After Monk had a big day against South Carolina, Malzahn said he expects Tennessee to pay more attention to the tall junior wideout.

"I challenged our other wideouts today," Nutt said. "Tennessee isn't going to let us throw to Monk the way we did last week. I bet they make it tougher on him. I hope we get that second wideout to step up. To their defense, we haven't thrown a whole lot. But we should get a chance these next three weeks to throw to a different receiver."

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