Tuesday Grid Update, 11/28

Arkansas returned to the practice field after three days off and enjoyed a solid workout in preparation for the SEC Championship game on Saturday against the Florida Gators.

It was beautiful weather Tuesday outside, but since Arkansas is headed for the Georgia Dome later this week the Hogs moved inside Walker Pavilion for a 90-minute workout in shoulder pads and shorts.

Fullback Peyton Hillis was at practice, but did not participate. He walked with a slight limp after missing the last two weeks with a thigh bruise. Houston Nutt said Hillis could still play this week -- if he can return to the practice field. He has not practiced since before the Tennessee game.

"We had a good practice," said Nutt, the head coach. "The guys are excited to come to practice. They know they are only one of two SEC teams practicing right now.

"They practiced extremely fast today. They came with great listening skills, too.

"Casey Dick was sharp today and Mitch Mustain looked good, too. The defense moved around very well. Guys, we had a good practice today."

Mustain got more practice repetitions Tuesday after getting very few last week when the Hogs had only a two day work week and also worked in plays with Darren McFadden at quarterback. Mustain also stayed after practice to throw some extra routes with wide receivers.

"We are going up against one of the better secondaries and one of the better defenses overall," Nutt said. "We are going to keep working on (our passing game) and try to improve."

Nutt said it was good to have Walker Pavilion to simulate playing in a dome. Nutt had loud music played over the speakers in the practice facility Tuesday and will do that again as the week progresses.

"It's the same exact turf in here that they have in the Georgia Dome," Nutt said. "The thing that you know about the Dome is that it can be very loud in there. Communication can be a problem and that's why we had the noise in here today and we'll do it some more Wednesday."

Nutt said Hillis "was out here listening today. We hope to have him back this week. We'll have to wait and see, though. You want your best players out there, but Farod Jackson and Mitch Petrus have raised their level. Our tight ends and fullbacks are playing well, too. They have done an excellent job."

Tailback Darren McFadden hopes he gets Hillis back to go with the rest of his offensive mates.

"You want No. 22 back because he's a very good player," McFadden said. "I like following him. He can do a lot of things and we need him. It would be great to have Peyton back out here."

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said Hillis gives the Hogs more "versatility," but noted he'll need to practice to be able to help the Hogs on Saturday. Malzahn said, "He's a good player and his blocking is a very overlooked part of what he does for us."

Asked about the keys to Saturday's SEC title game against Florida, Nutt said, "We have to take care of the ball. We have to avoid turnovers. Balance? We just have to avoid turnovers, take care of the balls and play hard."

Malzahn said both quarterbacks, Dick and Mustain, practiced well on Tuesday.

"I've been saying all along we had two starters," Malzahn said. "We are going to play the one who gives our team the best chance to win. It could be one or it could be two. You just have to come out here and practice well. They need help from the rest of the team. Today, I did think we practiced well."

Malzahn said the Hogs worked hard on the passing game.

"If you really look at all of our games, for the most part, we've been effective in the passing game," Malzahn said. "We weren't last week. That's the first time we've been stoned in the passing game. We didn't score enough points.

"We worked hard on it today and we expect to be better this week."

Malzahn said the practice repetitions were split 60-40 between Dick and Mustain, respectively.

"I thought both quarterbacks were extremely focused and practiced well," he said. "Our wide receivers had a good day, too."

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