Arkansas returned to the practice field Friday after a day off, with spirited results. The defense won a competition to end the day, one marked by a return of shoulder pads.
Wide receivers Marcus Monk and Robert Johnson sat out the workout, both resting sore legs. Both could return on Saturday.
Safety Matt Hewitt and defensive end Antwain Robinson were absent because of a "pink eye" infection. Matterral Richardson, out with the same illness Wednesday, returned to the workout.
Fullback Peyton Hillis went through the entire workout, but said afterwards he's bothered with tendinitis in his knee, something that's bothered him since the Florida International game.
Interim head coach Reggie Herring praised the focus and work from the team after the Walker Pavilion practice. He noted that running backs coach Tim Horton was absent, joining new head coach Bobby Petrino on the recruiting trail. David Lee, the quarterback coach, took Horton's players for the workout. Horton will miss again Saturday.
"Obviously, Coach Petrino is playing catchup right now in recruiting," Herring said. "No big deal. We know we'll have Tim back next week. He needs to be with Coach Petrino and David can handle his assignments for these two days. That's important work Tim is doing. He's helping him catchup in Arkansas."
Herring was pleased with the effort in practice.
"We are getting good effort," he said. "We've gotten a lot out of these players."
Herring said he was not alarmed that Monk sat out.
"The goal in everything we've done is to get these players to the bowl game healthy," he said. "That's why we've designed the practices the way we have, with some days off. We want to get some work out of Monk, but it doesn't need to be every day. The days he's been out here have been energetic and productive. He's had a fantastic attitude. We do want to listen to his body. If he feels like he needs to rest it a day, we are going to do that. When he's been out here, he's going full speed and getting things done."
Hillis is worried about his tendinitis. He said he will begin to take extra treatments in hopes of regaining his ability to sprint and cut.
"It's bothered me off and on since the Florida International game," he said. "It's just wear and tear on the season. I'm going to get some extra treatment right now.
"I don't think it's serious, but I wasn't full speed today. I couldn't make the plays I wanted to make."
Still, he did make plays. He snatched one deep pass with one hand late in the workout, one of his patented plays that has made Hillis famous during his four years at Arkansas.
"That was a good one, but I didn't feel good about some of the other plays I was in today," Hillis said. "I need to play better than that."
Still, he's making it fun, despite the sore tendon in his knee.
"These last few months have been fun and I'm just sad that it's almost over," Hillis said. "I'd like to play some more here. I am excited about the new coach."
Hillis said he was able to have a one-on-one meeting with Petrino earlier in the week.
"He met with everyone, including the seniors," Hillis said. "I told him I was a Razorback fan and that he has my full support. I don't know a whole lot about him just yet, but he made a good impression on me. I told him I'd do what I could to help him."
Right now, that's winning a bowl game, Hillis said.
"We've been studying Missouri and getting ready to play them," Hillis said. "They've got a good team. They have our respect. It should be a good game. Our team is practicing hard and is focused on this game. A lot has happened, but our team has stayed together in all of this. We are Razorbacks and we want to win this game."
That doesn't surprise Louis Campbell, the defensive coordinator for this game. He said players are the same no matter the bowl or the opponent.
"I don't know what the worst bowl is out there, but if we were in it, our players would have pride and want to do well in it," Campbell said. "That's just the nature of players. That's the way the coaches are, too. We want to compete. We want to represent this state and this school. There is a great focus in these players because they want to do well in the game and that's the same for the coaches."
That's not to say the Cotton Bowl qualifies. In fact, players and coaches alike seem excited about the Cotton Bowl.
"That's always the way it is at Arkansas, that the Cotton Bowl is way up there," Campbell said. "They treat you well."
Campbell said the Hogs improved their play in Friday's practice after a less than great workout on Wednesday.
"We were in shells (Wednesday)," Campbell said. "When you aren't in full pads, it's like a signal to players that you aren't playing football. You'd hope they would still go full speed, but they don't. The message we sent to the scout team was that we wanted more out of them today, better blocking and that it would help the (first defense) go harder. It did. I think we were a little better today.
"We made some plays on defense in the competition part of the practice at the end. Of course, that was against our offense and not against what Missouri does. The good news is that we hadn't seen some of the trick things our offense was doing and we handled our assignments well and made some plays."
The Hogs will change their schedule slightly on Saturday, moving their workout to 11 a.m. The change was done to accomodate Campbell's wish to attend his daughter's college graduation out of state. He'll board a private plane immediately after the workout in hopes of getting to Stillwater in time to see his youngest child, Caroline, graduate at Oklahoma State.
"I appreciate that," Campbell said. "I hope I make it in time. There is supposed to be 3-4 inches of snow in Stillwater so I don't know what we are going to see as far as conditions at the airport. But I do know this from my time in Stillwater (as defensive coordinator under Pat Jones), they don't have any mountains and they don't have many trees."
Campbell was asked about reports that he has a potential job at Arkansas under the new regime of Bobby Petrino.
"I don't really know what the future holds," he said. "In athletics, you better not look past the next day. You just never know too far ahead. I'll address all of that after the bowl game. Right now, I'm just trying to prepare for Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. That's all I'm going to do."
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