Monday Grid Update, 12/17

Arkansas continued bowl preparations for a date with Missouri. The Hogs know they'll see a tough challenge from the Tigers' offense.

Arkansas put in another 90 minutes of heavy work inside Walker Pavilion on Monday as preparations continued for a Cotton Bowl date with Missouri.

"We had a real solid practice," said Reggie Herring, Arkansas interim head coach. "It wasn't perfect, but it was real solid.

"Our guys come ready to play. The challenge is to remain focused during these workouts and they've done that so far.

"Marcus Monk was out there today and that was good to see. Those of you who haven't been able to see practice (because they've been closed previously this season to the media) don't have this knowledge, but in the past he's been real protective of that knee. But in several situations the last day or so, when he's been knocked down are gone down because of a collision, he's bounced right back up.

"That's encouraging. I think it's encouraging because it might mean he can be productive and effective for an entire game. He's definitely been much better of late."

Herring also praised the work of wide outs Reggie Fish and Carlton Salters in bowl preparations.

"Those guys and our wideouts as a group have been very impressive in practices," Herring said.

Defensively, the Hogs have their hands full in trying to prepare for a talented Missouri offense.

"Missouri is a big challenge," Herring said. "They have tremendous weapons. They have a very fast wideout (Jeremy Macklin) and they also have some great tight ends and backs. Macklin gives you matchup problems."

Cornerback Matterral Richardson noted the challenge and said the issue of covering big tight ends in space with smaller cornerbacks is a matchup problem the Hogs are trying to cope with in practice.

"We saw a great tight end last year in the bowl," Richardson said. "I believe he was an All-American this year. These tight ends, Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman, led the nation in yards per catch and they are a big factor in what they do.

"Rucker is a challenge, for sure. So is Macklin. We have to be careful with our matchups. You don't want to get a big guy on a little guy, or a little guy on a big guy. We have to make sure that we match speed with speed in our matchups. We'll try to do what we've done all year in relation to those matchups."

That's the big issue, Herring said.

"Alignment will be very important in the bowl game," Herring said. "We have to identify the players in their offense."

Defensive coordinator Louis Campbell emphasized, "What they do as far as their alignment is different in that they don't sub when they go to the spread. They just flex the tight ends. So you get caught with linebackers and ends on the field against their tight ends in coverage."

The Hogs were as close to full speed as they've been in bowl practices. Back at practice were Matt Hewitt (pink eye), Antwain Robinson (pink eye) and Peyton Hillis (knee tendinitis).

"It's been musical chairs for our players with that virus, but it looks like we are over it," Herring said. "Peyton was back out here and had a good day."

Also back at practice was running backs coach Tim Horton. He said he's had an active weekend on the recruiting trail with new head coach Bobby Petrino.

"It was good to get to players with Coach Petrino," Horton said. "We went almost three weeks without a coach. We needed to get in homes with him. The first week, the recruits were understanding. They knew the situation. They were OK, the second week, but they were starting to get restless. They wanted some answers. That last few days was tough, but they were very receptive to him in the home this past weekend."

Horton has been impressed with the way the backs have worked in the bowl preparations. He tipped his hat to Darren McFadden's work ethic. When the offense won a spirited competition at the end of practice meaning the defense had to run gassers, McFadden jumped in with the defense to complete the extra running.

"Darren missed a lot of workouts with his travels after the LSU game," Horton said. "He's concerned that his conditioning has dropped and he wants to be a big factor in the Cotton Bowl. He wants to be in shape to get the ball and carry his load. He doesn't want to get to the game and just get the ball five times. He wants to be able to be a force.

"Without going into Darren's future next year, what you have to say is that he's been very focused in our preparations for this game. He's been very focused and a big part of all of our meetings. He could be counting money. We know that. He could be stepping out of things. Instead he's at the front of everything and you see him step in with the defense for extra running. That's the way he is. Nothing has changed with Darren McFadden. That's why he's a great player."

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