Wednesday Grid Update, 8/22

Arkansas worked for just under two hours on the practice field Wednesday. Preparation for the season opener with Troy on Sept. 1 continued as the Hogs entered their third second day after finalizing scout team plans.

Robert Felton displayed his versatility for a second straight day taking the snaps at first team center with All-SEC star Jonathan Luigs out with a stomach bug as Arkansas rolled through a Wednesday afternoon workout on a cloudy day in the Ozarks.

"We have a very good practice," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "It cooled off a little bit and that helped our guys."

Nutt praised Felton's ability to move from guard to center. The coach said Felton could also step in at tackle if the Hogs felt the need. Nutt also praised Mike Aguirre in the offensive line.

The head coach said the Hogs continue to work against scout teams presenting looks designed to prepare for the opener in less than two weeks against Troy.

Peyton Hillis had a good day after missing around one week with a sore hamstring. Nutt said tight end Ben Cleveland would leave Thursday to see a specialist regarding his shoulder stinger.

"We are hoping to find some answers on Ben and get him back on the field," Nutt said.

Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring said the Hogs continue to look for depth, an ongoing mission. The Hogs are taking a hard look at freshmen defensive linemen Patrick Jones, Damario Ambrose and Brandon Lampkin. Those three appear headed for backup duty after the Hogs first hoped to redshirt all three.

"We need some help inside," Herring said. "We are going to keep looking at those young ones. We are trying to get Jones in shape. Lampkin looks good, but he has some missed assignments. We are trying to get them ready. You'd like to redshirt them, but they appear capable of helping us."

Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker wouldn't say for certain if any of those three are going to play just yet.

"We are working and trying to get better," he said. "Some days one of those freshmen looks good and the next day he slides back and another one steps up. We need them to stay consistent for a period of time. That's why we come to work every day."

Nutt said there are several freshmen headed for playing time. If Nathan Dick stays at number two quarterback, he'll not redshirt, the coach said.

"In the summer, we talked about redshirting Nathan," Nutt said. "Right now, you can't do that. If you are number two, you need some time. You need him to stay ready. So if he stays number two, he won't redshirt. You have to have your backup ready and that means getting him some game time."

Coaches said other freshmen unlikely to redshirt: H-back/fullback/tight end D. J. Williams, placekicker Alex Tejada, split end Crosby Tuck, linebackers Jermaine Love and Freddy Burton and cornerback Isaac Maddison. Love and Maddison, according to Herring, are likely to contribute to special teams. Newcomers Brandon Barnett and Walner Leandre, both juco transfers helping in the secondary, are also going to play.

"Jermaine Love has a great future," Herring said. "He is explosive, strong and has some punch. He'll be an excellent speical teams player."

Herring said he will pick backup tackles probably "on Wednesday of next week."

The defensive coordinator said he's still unsure of the way his secondary will play.

"Practice doesn't indicate how you are going to play in a game," he said. "We are untested back there. We'll have to wait and see."

Herring said as far as contributing as a linebacker, Love still is learning his assignments and isn't in the mix there yet.

Herring indicated that Leandre has moved to the number two spot at free safety behind Michael Grant. That allowed Kevin Woods to move to the backup strong safety spot behind Matt Hewitt.

Nutt said the top punt return tandem (the Hogs will deploy two punt returners this season) is Reggie Fish and Michael Smith. Nutt indicated Hillis will also get some turns in the tandem set. He said Darren McFadden and Felix Jones are the kickoff tandem. The only piece of the special teams puzzle yet to be finalized is the deep snappers where a battle is taking place between Barrett Reynolds and Rhett Richardson.

As far as preparation for Troy, Herring said he worried most about playing a spread offense and a mobile senior quarterback right out of the chute.

"I think the thought of someone spreading you out early in the season and getting you tired is troublesome," he said. "That quarterback gives you trouble, too."

Herring also said he worried about his players not being up for Troy as well.

"As a coach, you probably worry about this type of game a lot," he said. "If it was Alabama or Auburn, you know it would have the player's attention. You know Troy isn't coming in here scared. They've been to Nebraska and Florida State. They've beaten Division I teams. They won't be in awe of us."

Asked if defensive end Marcus Harrison was going to play against Troy, Herring said it wouldn't be his call.

"There is not going to be any pressure coming from me on him," Herring said. "That's going to be his decision, totally. As a coach, the last thing you want is for someone to think you used a player."

However, Herring thought it might help Harrison's decision to play earlier now that he's playing end and not tackle.

"This might not make sense to some, but if you are a tackle and inside, the last thing you want if you've had your knee repaired is for someone to come down on it from the side," Herring said. "The double teams inside can be tough on a knee. So confidence wise, it probably speeds Harrison up to be outside.

"I really like the fact that he's outside, too. He's a big body and can really set the edge against the run. What he can do pass rushing remains to be seen, but against the run I think he can really help us at end. He'll stay at end as long as we can avoid injuries inside."

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