Receivers Look Healthy For South Carolina

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Houston Nutt has often said the Razorbacks' passing attack has been affected by a rash of injuries, most notably to senior Marcus Monk.

But when the Razorbacks play No. 23 South Carolina on Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium, the group could be its closest to full strength in quite some time.

Monk earned his first significant playing time of the season in the 58-10 win against Florida International last Saturday. Nutt said sophomore London Crawford (knee) and senior Robert Johnson (ankle), who missed Saturday's game, could join him on the field against the Gamecocks.

Both receivers watched Monk make his return against the Golden Panthers. The senior had played only one snap in the first seven games after undergoing knee surgeries in August and September. But he started and caught two passes, including a 13-yard touchdown in the first half.

"Boy, it was a big lift," Nutt said. "I think the one thing you see is there's that respect for (No.) 85. Probably the one thing that's helped (running backs) Darren (McFadden) and Felix (Jones) a lot, you take for granted, is those about 1,000 (receiving) yards. Very few people can come in and practice a week and catch a touchdown pass."

Monk said his knee felt fine after the game. He also said he gained confidence after getting some playing time. So did Nutt, who is hoping the 6-foot-6, 220-pound target can return to his 2006 form.

Monk set a career-high with eight catches for 192 yards and a touchdown in Arkansas' 26-20 win at South Carolina last year. Depending on how Monk's knee feels this week, Nutt said the Razorbacks will give him every opportunity to turn in a repeat performance against the Gamecocks.

"That's what I'm hoping right now, that he can go in and give us that, for sure, seven, eight, nine (catches)," Nutt said. "The other thing is, he's a threat. People are going to have to respect that he's out there."


Cornerback Jerell Norton snagged his fifth interception of the season against the Golden Panthers, which pushed him into a tie atop the Southeastern Conference leader board with Vanderbilt's D.J. Moore.

It also moved Norton into a tie for ninth-place on the school's single-season interception chart. The last Arkansas player to collect five interceptions in a season was Zac Painter in 1998.

Arkansas intercepted five passes against FIU and has collected nine in the past two games. The Razorbacks lead the SEC in interceptions (15) and, as a result, lead the nation in pass efficiency defense (85.3 rating).

"I think (safeties) coach (Chris) Vaughn and (cornerbacks) coach (Bobby) Allen deserve a lot of credit," Nutt said. "They spend a lot of time throwing balls to these guys for the last five, six weeks and it's paying off. ... We put a lot of emphasis on playing the ball with your eyes, turn your head. You can see the improvements from week one to now."


Arkansas' defense forced seven turnovers and held an opponent to 10 points or less for the third straight game. But it didn't stop defensive coordinator Reggie Herring from grumbling Saturday.

"Reggie is such a competitor," Nutt said. "He doesn't like to give up long runs. He doesn't like missed tackles this time of year. That's the two main things. Between that and I think them calling timeouts at the end, all of that wrapped into one."

Nutt was referring to the two timeouts FIU used on its final possession, which started with 47 seconds remaining. When the clock expired, Herring waved his hands at the FIU bench and jogged to the locker room.


South Carolina hurt its chances of becoming the first school other than Georgia, Florida or Tennessee to win an SEC Eastern Division title with its 27-24 overtime loss to the Vols on Saturday. Instead, the Gamecocks (3-3) are tied with Florida for third and trail Georgia (4-2) and Tennessee (3-2).

"We could've been in very good shape in the Eastern Division even though it would not have done anything except just put us in good shape," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "I guess mathematically we're not completely out of it yet."

That's the way things have gone during the topsy-turvy season, in which so many SEC games have been decided late.

But even Spurrier sounded a little surprised Sunday as he jogged his memory of Arkansas' late-game losses.

"Arkansas has lost a couple of heartbreakers to Kentucky (42-29) and Auburn (9-7)," Spurrier said. "And Alabama (41-38). ... Arkansas could be undefeated.

"They could be No. 1 in the BCS right now."


The Arkansas-South Carolina game will be televised by ESPN or ESPN2, but a decision won't be announced until today. Kickoff — no matter what channel broadcasts the game — is 7 p.m. ... Thanks to its 58-point effort against FIU, Arkansas has returned to the top of the SEC in scoring (40.2 points a game). The Hogs are ninth in the nation in scoring.

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