Friday Grid Update, 8/24

On a day when Arkansas releases its depth chart, six players sit out Friday's practice with a variety of ailments.

The University of Arkansas released its depth chart before football practice on Friday afternoon and then went through the 90-minute workout without six players who are either on the two-deep or pushing to get there.

Starting cornerback Jerell Norton (high ankle sprain), second-team flanker Robert Johnson (virus), back-up quarterback Nathan Dick (hip flexor), reserve cornerback Brandon Barnett (pulled calf injury) and tight end Ben Cleveland (pinched nerve) all missed the workout with various ailments as did rehabbing starting split end Marcus Monk.

All with the exception of Monk and Cleveland are expected to be ready for next Saturday's season opener with visiting Troy.

"We had a really good practice on both sides of the ball today, so that makes you feel real good," Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said despite the unavailability of the aforementioned players. "We're going to have a great rehearsal tomorrow, and then we are just seven days out."

The rehearsal that Nutt speaks of is the traditional one held a week before the first game – a closed session that is off limits to the fans and media.

"It's full speed with substitution," Nutt said. "It is a lot for the coaches, too with headsets and substitution and all those things."

Arkansas will hold another closed workout on Sunday, take a NCAA mandated day off on Monday and then get back to work on Tuesday.

The Razorbacks also got word Friday that incoming freshman cornerback Greg Gatson, Jr., has been cleared by the NCAA and UA and will begin practice soon.

Norton, expected to start at left corner, is battling an old injury.

"It's a high ankle sprain," Nutt said. "He just re-aggravated the same injury from last year. We are just trying to make sure he is okay by next week."

Defensive back coach Bobby Allen said it happened over a week ago in practice.

"About a week and a half ago, we were doing one-on-ones," Allen said. " He went up to make a play, and he came down on his ankle wrong."

Plans are for him to be back by at least Monday.

"That's what we're hoping," Allen said. " It's been something he's been trying to fight through; he's been trying to practice through it and just noticed it's not getting much better. The other day he looked like he was really having some trouble with it. We just want to be smart, let him get rested so he can get back and be full speed."

That's the same situation with Dick, slated to back up his older brother Casey at quarterback and listed as No. 2 on the depth chart on Friday.

"He has a hip flexor," Nutt said. "Hopefully he will be back tomorrow."

Cleveland was meeting with a specialist on Friday in Houston, but the UA staff had not heard anything back as of the end of practice.

Nutt stressed not to put too much worth on the depth chart released on Friday as there are others who will see action.

"We just do a two-deep basically for you guys (the media)," Nutt said. "Those are the teams that will start out, but with the wideout spot there's more people involved.

"We still feel like Lucas Miller, (Marques) Wade, (Chris) Baker – feel like a lot of these guys could still be involved," Nutt added. "But you are talking about the top four or five guys, that's what you've got."

One of the newsworthy items on the depth chart was senior Marcus Harrison (6-3, 305) and sophomore Adrian Davis (6-4, 240) being named the first-team defensive ends with projected starters Chris Wade (6-5, 265) and Antwain Robinson (6-3, 255) backing them up.

"We play a lot of defensive linemen and all of them are valuable," Nutt said. "But you just go by who has done the best so far to this point. Chris Wade, in his defense, he has been hurt a little bit with headaches and concussion and got a little bit behind. He started out great so we expect him to come back once he gets confidence again and all those headaches gone."

The defensive depth chart could change daily under the direction of co-ordinator Reggie Herring, defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, Allen and safeties coach Chris Vaughn.

"They know that Coach Herring, Coach Rocker, Chris and Bobby are only going to put the ones out there that go the hardest and the ones that lay their hearts on the line each day."

Harrison is coming off knee surgery as is starting linebacker Freddie Fairchild and starting free safety Michael Grant – all who have worked with trainer Eric Lison and strength coach Don Decker to get back ahead of schedule.

"All three of the surgery guys - Freddie Fairchild, Michael Grant and Marcus Harrison - have done a great job," Nutt said. "Eric (Lison) and Don (Decker) have done a great job with rehab. That's hard, really hard work. It's real tedious, it's every day, it's twice, three times a day so boy you have to give them a lot of credit."

Harrison noted that a decision would be made late next week as to whether he will play in the Troy game or be held out until the Sept. 15 one at Alabama.

"I am still way ahead of schedule," Harrison said. "Hopefully what I am really shooting for is the Alabama game."

Davis – who was a safety in high school - missed nearly a week with a concussion, but has made a solid transition from linebacker to defensive end since this spring.

"I really wasn't expecting it," Davis said. "I was just expecting to play and help the team anyway I could. I should be ready to do that. I think I have come out and prepared the right way every day."

The depth chart also cemented the fact that juniors Michael Smith (5-7, 175) and Fish (5-7, 158) would return punts.

"Reggie and Michael are going to return punts," Nutt said. "They have done the best so far and they will get their opportunity to hopefully make some plays at that position."

Smith noted that he is used to making plays back in high school when he returned punts and not looking for the fair catch too much.

"Most people are looking for the fair catch when they catch the ball, but where I am from (Florida) it's anything you can do to change the game. I am not really a traditional style player. I would like to think I am like a (Chicago Bear) Devin Hester-type. I enjoy doing things like that."

Smith will get his share of carries as well, but obviously is behind Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at tailback.

"To me it is just one more play that he can be very valuable on," Nutt said. "I think he has had a great spring, great fall camp, just outstanding."

Nutt had a team meeting after practice on Friday and stressed to his team to stay out of trouble. He noted a few schools had been in the paper with players in legal trouble lately.

"The biggest thing is that there is no need to make a foolish, very bad, foolish decision now," Nutt said. "You read about what happened with South Carolina and another school where somebody makes a bad decision. You don't have time for that. We need every single body and everybody to do their part."


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