Arkansas coaches and training staff were cautiously optimistic Friday over the condition of wide receiver Marcus Monk. The senior sat out practice after taking a hit on his knee on Thursday.
The diagnosis from doctors after a MRI of the knee was a bruise to the bone. Monk's knee was swollen Friday and he spent most of the day in the training room with ice treatments.
"It's a little swollen and we'll watch it," head coach Houston Nutt said. "It looks like good news. The MRI usually gives you a very accurate picture. We'll take another MRI when the swelling goes down just to make sure."
Two more regulars left the practice field early Friday, but neither seemed serious. The only worry was that they were at the same spot. Antwain Robinson left early in the workout with a sore knee and Chris Wade went down near the end of the day after taking a blow to the chin. They are the two starting defensive ends.
"Chris got dinged just under the face mask," Nutt said. "We'll watch him and see how he does.
"On Antwain, Coach (Tracy) Rocker wants them to go hard and if they can't do that, he tells them they are better off in the air conditioning," Nutt said. "I didn't hear the entire conversation, but I think that's probably most of it."
Rocker, the defensive line coach, wouldn't elaborate. He just stated, "Antwain's knee was sore. He'll be alright."
Nutt thought the Hogs had another good day of installation in preparation of a major scrimmage Saturday night. The Hogs will go through a walk through Saturday morning and then begin the evening practice at 6 p.m.
"We are going to be looking at players to see if we have confidence to play them in a game," Nutt said. "I'm talking about those backups. We want to see who knows their assignments."
Nutt praised wide receiver Reggie Fish for his work Friday. He said the consistency between quarterback and receivers has improved this week, but he still isn't satisfied.
"We still have a ways to go, but we are getting better," Nutt said. "Reggie had a good day. Crosby Tuck and Marques Wade had good days, too. Tuck got a lot of work and he stepped up today."
Wideout coach Alex Woods didn't sound like a coach confident of his troops, especially with Monk out.
Asked if there was anyone close to being an equal to Monk, Wood said, "Are you kidding? We've improved, but there are no more Monks out there. He's a great player. Our guys are really working hard. They are improving. But we don't have any more Monks. They are working on their intensity, their ability to catch everything and their route running. I'll say they are working hard."
Offensived line coach Mike Markuson said his unit had a good day and he praised them for a good week. However, he said some of it might be due to the preparations of the defense early in camp.
"I think Coach (Reggie) Herring has been working hard on his base," Markuson said. "He's been in a 4-3 most of the time. That helps our bunch a little. I give our guys some credit for doing a good job, but I know he hasn't put in everything just yet. He's concentrating on the base.
"Now, I know he's going to add to it as we go. That will give us a harder time. Right now, we are getting a hat on a hat. We are doing well with our protection.
"We've looked good with our new play-action package and the draws that go with it. I think it's a tough combination to handle, but I think if Coach Herring wanted to put some things in to go against it, we might have a tougher time. So far, we've blocked it well.
"We've had physical, tough practices. Our first group has been very good. We have given them a lot, but they seem to know their assignments."
Tight end Ben Cleveland sat out the workout with a shoulder "stinger." He did attend the workout, but was not in full pads.
"Ben wanted to go, but we want him to rest it," Nutt said. "He's a big part of what we do and we want him to get well. He's a tough player. He'd go out there if we'd let him and he was frustrated today that we didn't let him work."
Others on the offense expressed their frustration that Nutt put no contact black jerseys on them. Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Peyton Hillis and Casey Dick had the no contact jerseys.
"We were about to do it anyway," Nutt said of the question on whether Monk's injury prompted the black jerseys. "It was time."
Hillis said he prefers the contact over the black jerseys, but he complied.
"I would just as soon not have that," he said. "But I understand."
Fish said he knows the team misses Monk, but he took advantage of his abesence for some extra work and a few more passes his way.
"We all know we will be better when he gets back and we hope that's soon, but his absence signals that it is time for the rest of us to step up," Fish said. "I tried to do what I could.
"I'm a little stronger and bigger, maybe five pounds bigger. That helps me with my strength to get off the line. I'm trying to take advantage of every day and get better."
Fish is one of several players working to be one of the starters in the dual punt return system.
"We are trying to see how long we can go without letting any footballs touch the ground," Fish said. "We are all working hard. There's me, Michael Smith, Jerell Norton, Peyton Hillis, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. We are all doing a good job."
Felix Jones was among the backs donning "no contact" black jerseys on Friday.
Photo by Marc F. Henning
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