Arkansas sophomore quarterback Matt Jones wore a knee brace at practice Wednesday to test how it would feel in case he decides to wear it Saturday night in the SEC opener with Alabama.
Jones did not do interviews after Wednesday's practice, but Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said the knee was fine and the brace was "only a test." Nutt said it was unlikely that Jones would wear it in the game, but that Jones wanted to see how it feels in case it's needed. Jones has a "mild" knee sprain, according to trainers.
Nutt said he warned Jones that there would be a lot of questions about his health if he wore the brace at practice since workouts at Arkansas are open, but Jones wanted to try it to see if it impaired his mobility.
It appeared that Jones practiced at or near full speed, and that the barce did not restrain his movement in anyh way. There was no sign of a limp or any problems with the tall, fluid quarterback.
Nutt said it seemed likely that DeCori Birmingham would be the punt returner against Alabama. The Hogs have held tryouts for the last two weeks to see who would return punts against the Tide. Lawrence Richardson tried his hand at it in the first two games, but will be handle it this week.
"If we played today, it would be Birmingham," Nutt said. "We like what we see with Carlos Ousley, too. We've let Tony Bua try it, too, because he's been real persistent that he did it in high school. I think Birmingham would be first and then Ousley. If we want someone that we know will catch it, that would still probably be George Wilson."
Nutt termed Wednesday's workout "excellent. Our concentration was good. You can tell our guys really want to play. They are excited and they moved around real good today."
Nutt took the offense inside Walker Pavilion late in the practice for the bulk of team work.
"We just wanted to have a little more room," he said. "No other reason. And, we are going to be on this practice field the next 10 weeks. We want to save the grass. Also, the guys say the softer turf inside feels good on their legs. That would be the reasons, nothing more."
Interestingly, the media has been asked to stay on the north end of the practice fields, so they did not follow the offense inside when they polished their game plan in Walker Pavilion.
Linebacker coach Bobby Allen said his troops were anxious to hit someone after an open week.
"We know what playing Alabama means," he said. "They are going to bring it and try to run it on us. Our guys know they have to be ready for that. It's something they are looking forward to seeing.
"I think we know this is the week when we find out a lot about this team. We think we know what we have, but we have to go out and prove it. There's probably a little doubt with everyone about this team until they see what we do in this game. Our guys understand that. They want to prove what they've got."
Allen was asked if the defensive front wants to disprove the thought that they might be vulnerable to power running because of their lack of size.
"Is that what people think about us?" Allen said. "I guess that's fair until we go out and prove something. I think our guys think they can play with them. It doesn't really matter what people say or think. We have to go out on the field and prove something. We want to do that."
NOTES: Arkansas added around 1,000 bleacher seats atop the south end zone of Reynolds Razorback Stadium and was looking for ways to add more seats in the "balcony" areas of the corners of the second level of the south end zone as it appeared Saturday's game with Alabama would be a sellout.
Construction workers were busy Wednesday putting the bleachers together atop the south end zone. Those bleachers extended from sideline to sideline atop the stadium. Some portable bleachers were added in the north end zone, too, to accomodate a heavy demand from students. Over 10,000 student tickets have been purchased.
Bleachers have been added atop the South End Zone.
Photo by Clay Henry