Saturday Grid Update, 12/16

Arkansas worked inside on a windy day in the Ozarks. Houston Nutt liked the hard hitting he saw in Walker Pavilion and issued praise for some younger Razorbacks.

Arkansas planned to work outside Saturday morning to take advantage of unseaonably warm conditions, but vicious, swirling winds pushed them inside Walker Pavilion yet again.

"It was another very good practice," head coach Houston Nutt said. "We went along the same schedule as yesterday. We hit Wisconsin hard, but we also scrimmaged the young players quite a bit.

"We are starting to put a little more emphasis on what Wisconsin does, but we are still getting some middle drill and some contact for our younger players."

Darren McFadden returned to practice, but was less than full speed because of an ankle injury sustained two weeks ago against Florida.

"Darren is little more sore than he wants to say," Nutt said. "He's tender with that ankle. He'll be fine in two more weeks, but he's bothered by it right now. He loves to practice and wanted to be out here, but he's probably a little worse than he wants to tell you. He'll be full speed in two weeks."

Nutt said the quarterbacks, Casey Dick and Mitch Mustain, continue to split practice snaps "50-50" and will do that for another week. They'll increase snaps for one of them when they begin bowl workouts in Orlando a week from Monday.

"We are going to go 50-50 the rest of our workouts here," Nutt said.

Plans now call for a 2 p.m. workout Sunday, then morning workouts Monday through Thursday of next week.

"We will be done on Thursday -- unless we don't like the workouts this week," Nutt said. "If they don't practice well, then we will bring them back for another workout Friday. It's up to them."

Nutt said the middle drills have brought some of the more physical young linemen to the forefront.

"DeMarcus Love, Joey Crossland, Ray Dominguez, Nate Garner and Lance Thompson were outstanding today," Nutt said. "On defense, Malcolm Sheppard, Mark Bonner, Wendell Davis and Adrian Davis had good days. Those guys love football."

Nutt said the emphasis has been on fundamentals and physical play over the past week.

"We've had tough practices," he said. "We know we are going against a tough, physical Wisconsin team. We've seen good play in our defensive line from Cord Gray and Freddie Bledsoe. Our defensive and offensive line have been getting afgter each other and those two guys have done well."

Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker likes what he's seen in bowl practices.

"This is a time when you have a chance to work on fundamentals, just man on man stuff," Rocker said. "During taht 10-week grind in the regular season, you are so focused in on learning what the other team does that you might see your fundamentals slip. We go back and catch up on that right now.

"That's why we are having a lot of middle drills. We are going against a physical team, but that's OK. That's us, too. It's like playing ourselves, it's like going against our own offensive line every day in practice so we have someone to simulate that.

"It's really nothing different for us. But it is good to go back to basics. It's putting a hat on a hat and getting our hands going. It's all about seeing who likes this game.

"We've had some young guys make some strides. Marcus Shavers, Malcolm Sheppard, Chris Wade, Fred Bledsoe -- all of those guys have made strides.

"But the guy who stands out above all of them is Sheppard. He's the backup for Jamaal Anderson and hasn't gotten a ton of snaps, but he's shown what he can do in some middle drills. He's a physical player. I'm not sure anyone wants to take the ball his direction right now. He's an outstanding one-on-one man. What we are doing right now is not real fancy, just not a lot of thinking. We are working against our power and iso game and that's tough stuff. It forces you to be a man and play football.

"Of course, that's what we are going to see when we face Wisconsin. They run some of the same stuff. It's a situation where you find out what you've got inside."

In the secondary, it's about finding tight end Travis Beckum, listed as the backup, but the key player in the Wisconsin passing game. The 6-4, 219-pounder leads the nation's tight ends with 686 yards receiving.

"That's No. 9 and you better find him," secondary coach Louis Campbell said. "He's kinda like a Marcus Monk, very sure handed and pretty good speed. They'll move him around and find the matchups for him.

"Early in the game, we'll have to figure out what they are trying to do with him and find a way to counter it. That will be the matchup we have to solve.

"It's easier said than done because of what they do in the running game. You look at their passing game and it doesn't look as complex as some of the other teams we've faced, but because of the way they run the ball, it's very, very effective. You get to playing the run, they get in max protect and hit a big play-action pass. You are more worried about the run, but the pass is what hurts you with their team."

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