Tuesday Grid Update, 8/14

On a day when Darren McFadden's Sports Illustrated cover appears, Arkansas gets a couple of defensive players back from injury while a plethora of offensive ones sit out Tuesday's practice.

University of Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee has designed a specific set of plays that feature senior wideout Marcus Monk.

Another set that features senior H-back Peyton Hillis. There's yet another group that is designed to take advantage of sophomore tight end Ben Cleveland's strengths.

But the Razorbacks didn't run any of those plays during Tuesday night's practice because all of those players were injured and in street clothes.

"It is all on hold right now," Lee said. "That is the best way I can put it. So we are finding other ways to try and get Felix Jones on the field with Darren McFadden and even looking at Michael Smith. But it's hard because what was Plan A has all of a sudden become Plan B because of three key injuries."

Monk is out anywhere from 4-8 weeks with a knee injury while Cleveland (neck) and Hillis are due back soon.

"(Hillis) has a slightly tweaked hamstring," Nutt said. "It's not too bad and hopefully he will be okay in a couple of days."

It was a different story on the defensive side of the ball, a unit that got a pair of defensive linemen back to contact in Marcus Harrison and Antwain Robinson – two of last year's starters.

Harrison not only was back, but splitting his time between his normal defensive tackle and defensive end, where he spent some time earlier in his career.

"He did a good job today for really the first time of mixing it up," Nutt said of Harrison. "We got him in four middle scrimmage drills and a few more snaps in team…He can play tackle or end and so when you have (Ernest) Mitchell, a Malcolm (Shepperd), Harrison and (Chris) Wade, when he is back, you are developing a little depth there. That's been a positive."

Harrison, who tore his ACL last spring, was very enthused about his day and splitting duties at both spots.

"I have got to learn the plays a little bit more and get adjusted to it, but it feels good to be back out there," Harrison said of defensive end. "I was out there my freshman year for a minute, but, hey, I am just glad I am able to play both positions. I have got the speed. Once I got in shape y'all will see me."

Harrison said he wasn't thinking about his knee.

"The way I think if I got out there timid or scared, I am risking myself for more injury," Harrison said. "I had a few butterflies, but once I knew it was on and once I got that first contact in, I was ready."

Robinson has been out with knee injury and also had his effort and availability questioned by defensive coordinator Reggie Herring.

"He (Robinson) was looking hungry, looking better and hopefully we can just keep him coming," Nutt said."

Getting those two players back helps offset the continued absence of first-team defensive end Chris Wade.

Wade, starting offensive linemen Nate Garner and freshman H-back D.J. Williams are all out with concussions with defensive end Adrian Davis just getting back from one.

Arkansas is being very careful about when it brings players back with concussions.

"There is just a lot of emphasis right now on concussions," Nutt said. "I have talked to doctors and some coaches all across the country. They won't even let them go to meetings. They are taking it a whole lot different than when we were here in the 1977. We would have took an aspirin and got back on the field."

Also missing practice was kicker/punter Jeremy Davis, who has a nerve problem in his foot.

That meant Alex Tejada, who was brilliant in Saturday's scrimmage but has been inconsistent this week, was making a push for the starting job.

He ended practice by drilling a 42-yard field goal through the uprights.

"Jeremy left on a good note and that's what's hard," Nutt said. "But hopefully we will get him out here before too long. Boy, it is good to have Alex Tejada out here. He is kicking the ball very well and hit a good ball for us today toward the end of practice."

With Monk gone, Arkansas is looking for a few receivers to step forward and take control of a spot.

Those include split end London Crawford, flankers Reggie Fish and Robert Johnson and true freshman Crosby Tuck, now working at both flanker and split end.

"I really like the reciever's attitudes," Nutt said. "They want to make up for Monk, they are really trying to come out and compete.

"We are putting a lot of emphasis on who is going to go make a play for us," Nutt continued. "Robert Johnson made a play today, Crosby Tuck made a play today, London Crawford made a play today. Who can we count on to go get the ball for us?"

Tuck, the former Shiloh Christian star, is certainly making his move.

"Crosby Tuck is very, very intelligent and comes from a good program," Nutt said. "I like his maturity. He is smart. He is working Z and X and as you saw today in third down and long and third and medium, he caught two crucial balls. He is pushing and making some strides. We have got him working to get into the mix and it will be interesting here the next week to see how far he can come."

Lee is also very high on junior Reggie Fish, who is the first-team flanker right now.

"Reggie is the best at getting off the line of scrimmage and getting to the top of his route and separating," Lee said. "If he was just consistently finish the play and catch the ball, we really would have something complete. I pleased with Reggie Fish right now. He is a guy I trust to get open."

Robert Johnson, expected to be the starter at flanker, has struggled according to Lee.

"Robert has struggled in the area of just finishing the play," Lee said. "We chart them every day. We have a receiver efficiency chart and right now he is struggling because he is dropping a few too many balls."

Overall during Tuesday's practice, some of the vets flourished while the rookies begin to drag.

"We are just trying to get them a little tougher, trying to get them a little better," Nutt said. "That's what you try to do - try to get a little better, try to get a little tougher every single day.

"For the most part we have got some guys really wanting to do it," Nutt added. "The twos had a little bit of setback today with the offensive line because they are starting to hit that grind of ‘it's hot, I'm tired, I'm sore' and they are not used to the intensity of it."

Arkansas has plans to practice at 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

O o o

Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden is on the cover of Sports Illustrated's College Football Issue, due out today.

The magazine has five regional covers.

"Man, I tell you there is nothing like it," Nutt said. "It just helps your school, helps your recruiting and helps for the next tailback. It's a good feeling."

Darren McFadden

Photos courtesy of Sports Illustrated

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