Wednesday Grid Update, 10/10

Arkansas coaches were pleased with Wednesday's workout. Robert Johnson did not finish practice, but is expected to play against Auburn.

Arkansas had what coaches termed "a very good" practice Wednesday in shoulder pads and shorts as preparation continued for Saturday's SEC contest with Auburn.

"It was another good day," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said, "a very good practice. We had good ball handling and just a good day.

"We know the team which makes the fewest mistakes will win this game. That's the way it is in all games, but we've had a few games with Auburn and that's the way they turn out with them.

"It's always a physical game with Auburn. It's always four quarters. Our players know what to expect."

Wide receiver Robert Johnson practiced without problems with what has been a sore ankle. Johnson left practice early with his ankle in ice, but Nutt said that was just the way trainers wanted it.

"That was the plan, for him to get about half the script of today's practice, then get off of it and keep it from getting sore," Nutt said of Johnson. "He looked good. He ran good routes. He should be fine. He'll be ready to go."

Johnson and fellow senior wideout Marcus Monk left practice at the same time to take treatment in the training room. However, Monk is not expected to play against Auburn, unlike Johnson.

"Marcus is getting better every day," Nutt said. "He's trying to come back and he's getting better. He's not ready now, but he's getting better."

Nutt said Mitch Petrus would start at left guard one week. Against Chattanooga, true freshman Wade Grayson played ahead of Petrus but Petrus took his spot early in the second half.

"Mitch really responded to that, it really motivated him," Nutt said. "Wade is going to play some, but Mitch played his best football in the second half last week. He came out with some real intensity. That's what we wanted to see."

Darren McFadden, bothered with sore ribs, said he's felt better the last couple of days in practice and expects to be fine for Auburn.

"I'm just a little sore, but it's getting better," he said. "When you have bruised ribs, there is a little discomfort with certain movements, but it's getting a lot better. I've had this before, in high school. It bothers you some, but you get used to it. I will be okay."

Asked if playing Auburn means a more physical night, McFadden said, "You know anytime you are in an SEC game it's very physical. We do expect it to be a tough, physical game, but you know that every time out. The last two games were not SEC physical games, but we know this one will be. You know -- and that goes for all of us -- that you have to be physical this week because it's an SEC team."

Nutt said it was clear the players were preparing for that kind of a game.

"We've got a little bit of a rivalry with (Auburn), so our guys know about this game," Nutt said.

Clearly, defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, a former Auburn assistant, knows what to expect from the Tigers. As a side story, Herring's son, Adam, is a freshman redshirt on the scout team at Auburn.

"That's not something that really matters, though," Herring said. "Out of respect to Auburn, I have not talked to him. I will see him for a few seconds at the game. But we aren't talking this week. He's on the scout team and we need to just leave it at that. If there is anything he's concerned about, it is probably seeing our two dogs. He loves those dogs."

Herring knows the Hogs will have a physical matchup with Auburn's offense.

"They are going to check our manhood, we know that," he said. "They are going to line up and try to run it straight at us. We expect that. Our coaching staff is anxious to see how we handle that, how much we've improved. We don't really know. That's the issue in this game.

"If you ask me if we are ready for this kind of a physical running game, I can't tell you. That's the big question mark this week. Ask me after the game.

"We have prepared for it and worked against it. We've talked about what we are going to face. We've tried to get better in this area. We've done alright in some instances, and then given up some big runs in some other instances.

"I thought we improved last week in some areas. We gave up 90 yards on two plays and did alright on the other plays. We missed two tackles on a 59-yard run, just missed at free safety. That's a concern. We have given up some big runs after we moved Michael Grant to cornerback from free safety.

"But we've improved in some other areas of the run defense. I think our kids have spirit and I think they are going to rise to the challenge. But we won't know until after the game.

"What you know is if you can't stop the run, a team like this is going to abuse you and make it a long night."

That isn't the only challenge in facing the Tigers.

"They've gotten the passing game going of late and been more consistent," he said. "That was the problem early, consistency in the passing game. We'll have to see if that continues. If they get the run game going and can be consistent in the pass game, then it's tough to stop them. But I think the run game opens up the pass game with this team. If it comes down to how well they throw it, we'll see if they can be consistent.

"I guess the X-factor for us is knowing the quarterback in the game. Is it Brandon Cox, or is it Kodi Burns. You have a different deal if it is Burns. You have to account for some option situations. You have to make sure you can stop him. That makes it tougher, but more than anything it is knowing which one is in there."

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