Saturday Grid Update, 12/8

Arkansas worked in a football practice amidst final exam schedules. The Hogs are preparing for a Jan. 1 date with Missouri in the Cotton Bowl.

The Arkansas football team worked for about 90 minutes Saturday morning inside Walker Pavilion in a practice spiced with heavy contact and spirited play, according to interim head coach Reggie Herring. It was the second practice this week in preparation for the Cotton Bowl date against Missouri.

"That's two days in a row we've asked them to practice and they've been focused and fundamentally sound," Herring said. "The biggest thing that stood out was that Marcus Monk and Robert Johnson were moving very well and making plays. It was also clear that Reggie Fish and Carlton Salters have been very good.

"I thought Casey Dick has thrown the ball about like he did against LSU in these two practices. David Lee aid Casey is really starting to get it.

"I thought the defense was working hard. They started a little bit sluggish, but they picked it up at a point and the contact was very good. There was a lot of spirited play and very good contact."

Herring said he was pleased with the play of some of the ineligible walkon players. He singled out transfer quarterback Alex Mortensen.

"Those guys, some of our walkons who are ineligible for this game, are in unique situations in that they come to practice knowing they can't play, but they still do a lot for this team," Herring said. "Alex has been on the scout team, giving us a great look for our defense all year. He's in the film room studying each day. He knows he is not going to play, but he's doing a great job for this team. I just want to draw attention to what Alex has done as far as sacrifice for this team."

Herring said the Hogs would take Sunday off except for those needing treatment in the training room. They will also be off on Monday as it's a heavy day for semester tests. They will resume workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday before taking Thursday off. They will practice Friday and Saturday.

"We've picked this schedule so that our players can concentrate on finals and they can also get treatement and get healthy," he said. "We want to keep from getting them hurt. When we work on Tuesday and Wednesday we will have an emphasis on special teams and then a 40-minute team segment to polish the game plan."

Lee, the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, praised Lee when he visited with the media.

"Casey has looked very good," Lee said. "He is playing with confidence. He threw for four touchdowns against Mississippi State and he made a lot of clutch throws against LSU. We were 9 of 18 on third downs against a very good LSU defense and that's really good. You can see he is getting confidence. His level of play has gone up. He's looked sharp the two practices this week. He's had two really good practices."

Lee also said wideout Marcus Monk is raising his level.

"He's gotten faster and quicker," Lee said of Monk. "His quickness has really improved. He's running better. He's moving his feet much faster and better."

Dick said he sees that in the senior wideout, too.

"I've seen him spring off the knee he had surgery on several times this week and have some real bursts with that leg," the quarterback said. "I see him cutting better. He's making more plays and you can tell he's excited about his improved physical condition. And, of course, that helps all of us when he's like that."

Several key players were sitting out, the most notable tailback Darren McFadden. The junior from Little Rock is in New York City awaiting word on the Heisman Trophy. Jonathan Luigs, who won the Remington Award as the nation's top center, came to practice late and was not dressed out after taking a final exam on Saturday morning.

"We are all going to be watching tonight," Luigs said. "It's a big night. We've won some nice awards, but we are hoping for one more tonight."

Luigs said he was surprised to get the Remington.

"It just hasn't set in that I won it," he said. "It was a fun night (in Orlando). It was like everything was Arkansas. Darren won his awards, Felix was there, and Coach (Frank) Broyles got his honor, too. It was a big night for Arkansas. There were other teams represented, but not like Arkansas."

Dick said it's clear the Hogs have some special players. He noted that he takes the center snap from the nation's best player at that spot and then has the option of giving it to the nation's best backs.

"I've got an easy job with those kind of players in front of me and behind me," Dick said.

The quarterback admitted he's had a lot of fun on and off the field in the last couple of weeks with watching his teammates picking up awards and spending time with other teammates in duck blinds.

"Andrew Davie and some of the others have done a lot of duck hunting," he said. "We've been doing well. Right now, I'm the best shooter. I shoot one shell and get one duck every time. The others are not so good."

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