Thursday Grid Update, 8/30

Arkansas closed the door on game preparations for the season opener with a "shorts and shells" practice Thursday. The Hogs take on Troy at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Two days before its season-opener against Troy, Arkansas practiced for 75 minutes Thursday in shorts and shell shoulder pads. Special-teams work was the main focus of the late afternoon.

"We spent a lot of time with special teams," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "We worked again on the kickoff, kickoff return, the punt, punt return."

Nutt said he wanted to work out all the kinks before some of his special-teams contributors had their college debut Saturday night.

"You've got a lot of people who will be playing in front of a lot people for the first time."

Nutt also said that junior Nathan Emert remained in the No. 2 quarterback spot on the depth chart. Freshman Nathan Dick had been the backup, but he has been slowed this week by a hip flexor and hasn't been able to make up the ground he lost.

Nutt also refused to divulge, albeit with a smile and laugh, whether Arkansas would defer or take the ball Saturday if the Hogs won the coin toss.

"We already know what we're going to do," Nutt said. "We're going to hold that one (and not tell)."

Running backs coach Tim Horton, a punt returner during his days with the Razorbacks, talked about his backs' contribution to the return game.

"I don't mind them doing returns," Horton said. ""You want your best players to have their hands on the ball, particularly someone like Michael Smith. He's our punt returner, and that's a way to get the ball in a dangerous player's hands. You want your playmakers to make the plays that help you win."

He also spoke about his return to Reynolds Razorback Stadium after nearly two decades away. He said he's been too preoccupied with his game assignments to get caught up in the emotions of the evening.

"I really haven't thought about it," Horton said. "Whatever your role or job is on game day, you've got to be focused on that. My little role for me, I better do it well. Really my role is to make sure the right personnel groupings are in the game. I'm in charge of that on each play. If the wrong group is in the game, it's my screw up."

Offensive linemen DeMarcus Love (knee) and Kareem Crowell (gall bladder) missed Thursday's practice, as did tight end Ben Cleveland (neck) and wide receiver Marcus Monk (knee).

Cleveland's injury, a nerve problem, will take at least two weeks to heal, said Arkansas assistant athletic trainer Eric Linson.

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