Arkansas got a step closer to finishing on-campus bowl practices Tuesday with the announcement that the workout planned for Thursday had been scratched in favor of two workouts on Wednesday.
"We've done a lot of good work and have had an oustanding week of workouts," said head coach Houston Nutt. "We decided to reward the players for their solid workouts and get them out of here a little earlier. So we'll hae two workouts tomorrow and let them go home for Christmas.
"We like what we've done. We've had 10 or so very good workouts. We'll get in six more down in (Orlando)."
Nutt said Cedric Washington, Robert Johnson and Reggie Fish continue to produce solid plays in their bid to take the starting spot at flanker left open when Damian Williams left the team a week ago.
"They've caught the ball very well, especially the last two days," Nutt said. "We are excited about what they've done at flanker. We've seen them make plays in the passing game. They are getting a lot of repetitions and you can see their progress."
Overall, Nutt said the bowl workouts have been productive in the aspect of team chemistry.
"Our players are happy and excited about playing football right now," he said. "I give the seniors a lot of credit. We are closer than we were before we began bowl practices. Again, that goes back to the seniors.
"Our players came back to the bowl workouts with the purpose of getting better.
"We've wanted to get better in the passing game. We've worked very hard in pass skeleton and we've done what we wanted, get better in that area."
Nutt said there was no change in the status of fullback Peyton Hillis, out the last month with a thigh bruise. Hillis was in sweats and sat on the sideline to watch.
"There's nothing new there, nothing has changed," Nutt said. "It's the same story."
The story is that Hillis is still unable to practice and very doubtful for the bowl game.
Nutt said while the Hogs have worked hard on the passing game, they've also added some "new wrinkles" with the Wildcat Package which features Darren McFadden at quarterback.
"Maybe we've got a couple more (new wrinkles) for this game," Nutt said. "I know this, you are playing a good, solid football team. I've watched enough film to see that they don't give up the big play. They are stingy on defense. For us to do well in this game, we have to do a great job of blocking and tackling."
Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said the Wildcat has been good to the Hogs with McFadden pulling the trigger and the Hogs shouldn't leave it now.
"We saw Florida slow it down and that's because they are very good on defense," Malzahn said. "But that doesn't mean you leave it now. I think we've worked hard on a couple of new things and they will help us keep the defense off balanced."
Malzahn said he's pleased with what he's seen at wide receiver with senior Cedric Washington working both the flanker and split end side.
"We've looked at Cedric as the third receiver and also playing some of the split end position," Malzahn said. "Robert hasn't been as long at wideout and probably didn't need to be trying to learn two positions."
But it was clear that Malzahn likes Johnson's ability to contribute after moving from quarterback earlier in the season.
"Robert is a great leader and shows tremendous character," Malzahn said. "He's helped our younger wideouts with the intangibles in the meeting room. He's had a good week of workouts. I think you are going to see him develop into a big-time wideout in the fall after he gets a spring under his belt, but we want him to be a big-time playmaker in the bowl game, too. I think he can be that for us.
"What we are seeing right now is that he is becoming instinctive in what he's doing at wideout. He's running better routes right now than he did during the season. He's learning.
"We already knew he would help with the intangibles in the meeting room because all of the players like and respect him. But now he's being a force on the field by making plays."
While the Hogs were working on the field, several players trying to rehab injuries from the season were getting work from the training staff on the sideline. Both Freddie Fairchild and Michael Grant, both trying to come back from ACL knee surgery, were looking good as they went through their paces away from the hitting.
Grant was hopping on one leg, alternating the movement as he went over cones. He also jumped high over cones with a two-foot start. It was obvious that he's come a long way since his surgery five weeks ago.
"Grant really looks good and we are hopeful that he's back by two-a-days in the fall," Nutt said. "He's making some real progress and he's excited about being out here. Freddie is doing very well, too."
After practice, tailback Darren McFadden stayed late to stand center stage for a photo shoot for the cameras of ESPN the Magazine. It wasn't clear if the photo shoot was for a cover story or a feature story within the magazine.
Tuesday Grid Update, 12/19
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