Saturday Grid Update, 12/30

The hay is in the barn for the Arkansas football team as they wrapped up practices for the game with Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl.

Arkansas put the wraps on its heavy work for Monday's game with Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl with a 45-minute workout at Freedom High School on a warm Saturday afternoon in Orlando, Fla.

The Hogs beat the heat with a 11:30 a.m. EST workout on a still muddy high school field. Temperatures were expected to hit 82 by the afternoon, but the Hogs hardly worked up a sweat with their brief practice.

"This was like a Thursday workout," head coach Houston Nutt said. "We are done. We've got it all in now. We've had very good workouts both here and in Fayetteville. These have been very productive workouts.

"I give it to our seniors. They've made sure we got what we needed done. We've had great bowl preparations. We've been focused and we've worked hard.

"Our players know it's about time to play a game. We were in early and we are very focused."

There were no injuries to report Saturday. The only concerns lay with the linebacker area where Matt Hewitt, Sam Olajubutu and Weston Dacus have been less than full speed during the bowl practices. Both Olajubutu and Hewitt are nursing knee injuries. Dacus is recovering from the stomach flu. All will play in the game.

The Hogs have prepared hard for Wisconsin's strong running game. The Badgers employ a two tight end set for about 80 percent of their plays and run mostly out of that set.

The Hogs have worked on all combinations against that two tight end set, including a defensive front featuring five linemen. The Hogs have used that alignment at times this year, but rarely have they needed it for an extended action. In that rotation, the Hogs would have available three defensive tackles with starting experience -- Ernest Mitchell, Keith Jackson and Marcus Harrison. All are healthy for the game.

"They have two tight ends out there almost all of the time," said secondary coach Louis Campbell. "Of course, one of them is more like a wideout. He's going to line up at tight end, H-back and as the fullback. He's probably not the blocker the other tight end represents."

Houston Nutt said special team workouts have been lengthy throughout the bowl preparations, both at Orlando and in Fayetteville.

"We've hit all situations hard," Nutt said. "We want to make sure we do a good job in special teams in this game after the last two games (when special team play hurt the Hogs)."

Special teams coordinator James Shibest said that the Hogs haven't added any periods of special teams play, just tried to be better during the times they've spent on all areas of special teams.

"I think we've been pretty good with special teams the last three years and we were really playing well in all areas until the last two games," Shibest said. "So we went back and tried to concentrate a little harder to fix some things that didn't go so well."

One of those has been fielding punts with Reggie Fish. The sophomore fumbled a punt inside the 5-yard line against Florida in the SEC title game that was recoeered in the end zone for a TD that gave the Gators the lead for good.

"We've made sure he doesn't touch a ball that goes inside the 10-yard line," Shibest said. "That play was a case where he started out at the 18-yard line and as he went back he lost focus on where he was at. We've worked hard on that situation. In other games, when he's started at the 10, he didn't have that problem. So we've gone over and over that situation."

Shibest said Wisconsin's special teams have been "very good" and the Hogs know it will be a key aspect of the game.

"They are a block team," he said. "They've blocked punts and placement kicks. So we've worked hard on all areas of that. We've emphasized to (punter Jacob) Skinner that he must be quick. He's done a good job the last three weeks of getting the ball off quickly. We've won the field position battle most of the year with his punts and we'd like to do that again this week."

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