Offensive Line Undergoes Changes

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' offensive line, which is coming off what coach Houston Nutt called its worst performance of the season at Tennessee, looked a little different during Tuesday's practice.

Senior Robert Felton, who has started much of the past three seasons at right guard, was working at left tackle. Redshirt freshman DeMarcus Love, a reserve, lined up at right guard.

The shake-up was the result of junior Jose Valdez's sprained left ankle, which kept him off the practice field. Offensive line coach Mike Markuson said there's a chance Valdez could be healthy enough to play against Mississippi State on Saturday, but the Razorbacks are preparing to go without him in Little Rock.

"Those are aggravating, nagging things," Markuson said. "Every kid is different in how they deal with that. High ankle sprains, those are tough. We've got to move on and go to the next-best combination we got. We feel like that's it. So here we go."

Markuson said he has no doubt Felton can handle the move because the senior has played "every position on the offensive line" during his Arkansas career. He doesn't expect a drop-off with Love in the lineup, either, calling the Texas native a "hard-hitting guy" who has been waiting patiently for a chance to fit in with the starting group.

In fact, Love said he is eager to show the Razorbacks he is ready for the spotlight. Love is leaning on veteran center Jonathan Luigs and right tackle Nate Garner for guidance, but said he will be comfortable in a starting role if Valdez can't play Saturday.

"The coaches have made it clear that I've got to step up and act like a starter now," Love said.

The offensive line is trying to bounce back from its poor effort against the Volunteers. The group struggled to open holes for Arkansas' running backs and the Hogs finished with 289 yards.

Markuson said the challenge won't be any easier against Mississippi State, which has been winning games because of its stout defense.

But he said his offensive line expects a better effort Saturday.

"They know what's at stake here," Markuson said. "They know what they're facing. I'm very happy with what they did (Tuesday)."


Nutt tried to lighten the load on the Razorbacks last week, scaling down the amount of contact they went through during practice.

But after the 34-13 loss to Tennessee, Arkansas was on the practice field in full pads Tuesday. Nutt said it was necessary for what he believes will be a physical game against Mississippi State.

"That's the kind of game it's going to be," Nutt said. "Like we said Sunday, we didn't feel like we executed like we needed to. We got out here and had a good practice (Tuesday)."

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