Wednesday Grid Update, 11/8

The headliners are all ready to play, but Arkansas may be without a defensive stalwart when Tennessee comes to the Ozarks this weekend.

Arkansas got some good news on the injury front and some bad news Wednesday as the Hogs continued work to play Tennessee this weekend.

Tailback Darren McFadden, cornerback Chris Houston and fullback Peyton Hillis all looked full speed at Wednesday's workout, the last in full pads this week.

However, linebacker Sam Olajubutu did not practice because of a slightly swollen knee.

"Sam wanted to go, but we told him he would have to watch," head coach Houston Nutt said. "We told him he'd have to get mental reps today. If it had been a game, he would have played today. We are just taking care with his knee this week in practice. He's getting better every day."

The Hogs will not have defensive tackle Marcus Harrison on Saturday. The junior from Little Rock Mills sustained what was believed to be a minor concussion during Wednesday's workout.

"That probably knocks him out for Saturday," said Reggie Herring, the defensive coordinator. "Ernest Mitchell has been getting most of the game work there and we'll just have to go without Marcus, it appears."

McFadden, Houston and Hillis all had to fight through injuries last week against South Carolina, but have not been bothered in practice this week.

"Darren is fine," Nutt said. "He's ready to go."

Backfield coach Danny Nutt said, "He looks great, just great, to me. He's so tough. I think he is the best I've ever coached. Our players know he's good, too. They see it. He looked full speed to me today."

McFadden spent the early part of the workout, the only portion sportswriters could see, fielding kickoffs and making cuts at full speed. If the ankle is bothering him, it was not apparent during that part of the drill.

Offensive guard Stephen Parker, also bothered by a knee injury last week, was also close to full speed on Wednesday.

"Oh, I'm good," Parker said. "I don't have any problems. The knee is fine."

And, Parker said it would take a lot more to keep him off the field on Saturday night.

"This is what you play D-I football for, to play a home game on Saturday night on national TV and have it mean something," Parker said. "We started the year with our goals to win a championship and we are still right there as far as those goals. It's a big game.

"We are just having a blast each week. It's been a lot of fun all year and it's been fun this week."

Parker said the team knows ESPN's Game Day Show is coming to town and they have something to show that crew.

"We sit around in hotels on the morning of games either at home or on the road and we watch Game Day," Parker said. "Thsoe guys have been saying stuff about us for the last few years and it hasn't been good. And, they haven't picked us much or at all. We all watch. We know what they say about us.

"The whole campus is excited about Game Day coming. So is the team."

Parker said it hasn't taken the Hogs long to get used to a new starting quarterback. Casey Dick took the controls early in the South Carolina game and was named starter on Sunday.

"He was going to be our quarterback coming into this season, but he was hurt," Parker said. "So he had already won the team over at that point. He's very tough mentally and a good player. He can really pass that ball and he doesn't mind sticking his nose in there if it's a run.

"He's healthy now and he's back. He sure played well against South Carolina. He's got some fire to him and he plays like a gunslinger. He's like Brett Farve to me. He'll take a shot down the field. He's a really good player."

Herring said the Hogs are battered on defense, but he thinks the team will give a good account of itself against Tennessee.

"We have done a good job so far of keeping people contained with what we've got," he said. "Yes, we are beat up. We are what we are and we have who we have. The good news is that our offense is getting better and better.

"Our goal is to keep playing well as a team. On defense, we aren't real attractive. We aren't going to be in the headlines. We don't expect to be front-page news, but we are going to show up and try to give a good account of ourselves."

The Hogs are beat up at free safety where Michael Grant is out for the season with an ACL tear.

"We will miss Grant's speed, but we've got Kevin Woods back there and he'll do what he can," Herring said. "We also moved Jerrell Norton back there and he's the backup right now. He's got some good cover skills and he looked good today. He can give Woods some rest there."

Secondary coach Louis Campbell said, "We feel pretty good with Woods at safety. He's played quite a bit at free safety. We've played Grant at corner and used Kevin at free (safety) quite a bit lately. He's been getting 20-plus plays there the last few games and he's made our Top Hog Club (for outstanding play) twice in the last few games. So we think he can go out there and play well. We at least know he's not going to freeze up because he hasn't done that so far."

The challenge will be tough, though.

"We've played several teams with two outstanding wideouts, like Southern Cal and South Carolina," Campbell said. "But Tennessee has three. They've got Robert Meacham, Jayson Swain and Brett Smith. Obviously, Meacham is their go-to guy and he's really outstanding. But either one of those other two would be go-to guys on other teams.

"David Cutcliffe, obviously, knows how to use them. They have two good quarterbacks. Both of them look like all the Tennessee quarterbacks you've seen. Cutcliffe puts them in good positions to hurt you with the things you are trying to do."

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