On a week where the new book "Year of the Dog" has gotten more attention than the Year of the Hog, the University of Arkansas got back down to on-field business on Friday night.
That's when the Razorbacks, Hogs if you will, went through their first of 20 or so bowl practices inside the comfort of the Walker Pavilion.
It was the school's first bowl practices since 2003 – a welcome addition for Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt and his staff – and came with six recruits taking official visits looking on.
"This is what we have been missing these last couple of years," Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said. "It's the excitement of teaching and starting back over, fundamentals and getting our young guys a lot of work. We are going to be able to get close to 20 practices in. It's just like the spring – if not better. This is awesome."
Razorback starters essentially got the night off while the younger guys and back-ups got a shot to impress the coaches.
"We are able to get some of our guys with bumps and bruises and our older guys a break tonight and really zeroed in tonight on all of the redshirt freshmen and our younger guys who haven't gotten very many snaps."
Nutt singled out redshirt freshmen offensive linemen DeMarcus Love and Ray Dominguez, junior offensive lineman Nate Garner, freshman linebacker Adrian Davis, and freshman cornerback Jerell Norton, redshirt junior safety John West and wideouts Carlton Salters and Rashaad Johnson for their efforts on Friday night.
"It's just refreshing," Nutt said. "They are so hungry and they are excited. They have been scout team all year long and now they are getting coached and got good individual time tonight."
Junior fullback Peyton Hillis, who has missed the last three games due to injury, was at practice but did not work out.
"Hillis was here today and had treatment and came out here a little bit today," Nutt said. "Hopefully he will be ready Wednesday."
The practice was set against a backdrop of the limited early release this past week of the book "Year of the Dog", which chronicles the 2005 championship season of the Class AAAAA champ Springdale Bulldogs and the recruitment of their players.
There are some quotes in the book from Springdale quarterback and current Razorback freshman signal caller Mitch Mustain that are viewed as critical of Nutt.
Nutt said he and Mustain have talked yet, but he does plan to do so and move on past the situation.
"We haven't talk yet," Nutt said. "I look for us to talk soon. Like I mentioned before, I don't worry about a book that says some of the things that were printed, especially some of the things that were quoted about me, I don't worry about it all. I know how things can be said and maybe construed the wrong way. I don't worry about.
" I really don't because we are spending our energy now on Wisconsin," Nutt added. "Our players have won 10 games and we are trying to get to 11. These guys have a great attitude right now."
Mustain met with reporters after practice, but didn't want to talk about the book. He was asked if he was surprised about the clamor the book has caused,
"Yes and no, again it's not something I am going to go into," Mustain said. "People have their opinions about it."
Nutt said that Mustain, who started eight games before being replaced by sophomore Casey Dick, would be given a legitimate opportunity to start or at least play in the bowl game.
"He is going to have a great opportunity to play," Nutt said.
Mustain, who got snaps along with Dick and redshirt Nathan Emert on Friday night, said he is looking forward to the opportunity to do so.
"Like I have said before it (being he back-up) has kind of a good learning experience for me to sit back and see that," Mustain said. "I have been anxious to kind of get in the last couple of games, but that's not my decision. There is nothing I can do about that. I just have to stay prepared and stay ready for whatever happens."
Mustain was given more reps in practice before the SEC Championship game against Florida than he had in the previous three weeks.
"We are going to do what we did last week and I am going to do what I can to get prepared," Mustain said. "As far as that (playing in the bowl game), we haven't really talked about it. I am sure when we hit our full practice next week that it is something we will cover. Until then, I am expecting it to be how it has been."
He said he didn't think the book has been a distraction as far as practice on Friday night.
"I think we had a good day today," Mustain added "The youngers got some good reps today and I think I got some."
Nutt was recognized Friday as one of five finalists for the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year award, whose winner will be announced Dec. 13.
"It starts with the players and the other coaches," Nutt said. "It is always good to be recognized by your peers in one of the toughest conferences in America. Atlanta (the SEC Championship) is one of the hardest places to get to. You look around at the teams with good big names like Florida who hadn't been there in five years."
Nutt said that team success and berth in the league title game came about because of a team and coaching staff that worked together.
"It is a hard thing to get to and it takes a great coaching staff with great chemistry to get to and players who really work together with a great attitude."
Nutt will board a plane on Saturday to attend the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York where Razorback tailback Darren McFadden joins Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith and Notre Dame signal caller Brady Quinn.
McFadden, who won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back on Thursday night, was on ESPN Radio and television programs on Friday.
"I'm going to be able to go down there and at least get there by the ceremony," Nutt said. "I am really proud of how Darren has handled himself, especially winning the Doak Walker Award last night. (UA sports information director) Kevin Trainor and (UA running back coach) Danny (Nutt) are with him and everybody just talks about his humbleness.
"It's the first time ever for a Razorback to win a Doak Walker Award and first time ever for a Razorback to go to New York and sit down and be one of the names called for the Heisman Trophy – the highest level trophy there is in college football," Nutt said.
He said the attention of McFadden certainly is helping recruiting and also noted that this season was the most fans ever to attend Razorback home games – of which there were eight.
"You are getting calls and feedback right now," Nutt said about McFadden's impact. "We have never had tailbacks pursue us the way they have been pursuing us. That's what is exciting. You can be selective, you are getting a lot of attention. It is exciting."
UA Grid Report, 12/8
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