Hogs Have Light, Festive Workout

FAYETTEVILLE--A word of gratitude is in order for Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, who agreed midway through Sunday's one-hour football practice to leave the entire workout open to the media.

"Anybody who would come out here on a Sunday afternoon can stay," Nutt said. It was an unseasonably warm December day, but breezy enough to hold the attention of punt returners and pass catchers. The Razorbacks had been practicing mostly inside the Walker Indoor Pavilion the past week, despite the nice weather. "We always have our best practices in there," Nutt explained. "It's the noise, the speed. That's one of the most important facilities we have." But the offense stayed outside on Sunday, as quarterbacks Casey Dick and Mitch Mustain continued to alternate snaps. An Internet report on Saturday had Dick starting in the Capital One Bowl game against Wisconsin on Jan. 1, but that story proved premature. "I don't know where anybody is getting that," Nutt said. It turned out that an Associated Press advance story relied on Nutt's quotes the day after the Arkansas-Florida game, saying Dick was still the starter, and the AP story was included on the UA Web site. More recently, Nutt has said the quarterback competition is open. "We probably won't name the starter until the first practice down there (in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 26)," Nutt said Sunday. Dick and Mustain are having a spirited — but not contentious — competition. They play catch with each other every day, and chat often between plays. Sunday they varied their moments of pitch-and-catch, with each mimicking a baseball pitcher, and Dick even making four straight throws left-handed. While that was going on, a few yards away running backs coach Danny Nutt said something that cracked up tailbacks Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Michael Smith and fullback Mitch Petrus. McFadden, still moving gingerly with a high ankle sprain, didn't even don a helmet for the pad-less practice. But the players all snapped to seriousness when a whistle signaled a special-teams period. Coach Bobby Allen became highly vocal during that period when someone went the wrong way on punt coverage. "We want to get back where we were the first 10 games with our special teams play," Nutt said afterwards. With fullback Peyton Hillis still limping, Reggie Fish and Cedric Washington caught punts. Hillis went through the pre-practice stretching exercises and even ran a play with the offense during teamwork, but otherwise was limited to some light running on the sidelines with redshirting freshman receiver Carlton Salters, who has a pulled hamstring. Another redshirting freshman receiver, Andrew Norman of Springdale, is now wearing jersey No. 1 in practice. That was the number worn by Springdale native Damian Williams, who left the team after making 19 catches this season and earning All-SEC Freshman Team honors. With Williams absent, senior receivers Washington and Chris Baker are getting more practice time. Baker made an eye-popping grab of a high Mustain aerial during a two-minute drill on Sunday. When Baker caught another pass in the end zone moments later, Hogs reserve center Jeremy Harrell invoked the memory of the late, beloved broadcaster Paul Eells by exclaiming, "Touchdown, Arkansas! Oh, My!" If bowl games are part reward, the Razorbacks are rewarding each other by having a good time. GRANT HALL IS A MORNING NEWS SPORTS WRITER. HIS COLUMN APPEARS EACH MONDAY AND THURSDAY. E-MAIL: GHALL@NWAONLINE.NET

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