Arkansas put the finishing touches on its on-campus portion of bowl practices by breaking from form with an outdoor workout Thursday. Reggie Herring, interim head coach, pronounced the Hogs ready to travel.
"We've had a great couple of weeks of practice," Herring said of the Hogs' preparation for a Cotton Bowl date with Missouri. "We spread it out by design, gave them some days off and got a few more workouts in than what I see most have gotten around the country in bowl workouts.
"The plan was to try to keep people healthy and not make it two-a-days. We have everyone at full strength. We kept our players excited. I'm going to make a mental note for the future. This is how you should do it. It's worked very well.
"At the end of the day I'm proud of the players and I'm proud of this coaching staff and the way they've conducted themselves. I think we got more in with this schedule."
Herring said he started bowl workouts a little earlier than in past years because of boredom.
"Really, that's the truth, I didn't want to sit around and read the newspaper," he said. "I didn't want boredom to set in. So we started practices. Our players embraced it."
As far as Thursday's outdoor workout in temperatures almost 60 degrees, Herring said, "It was just too beautiful. Some of his baldheaded guys needed the sun."
Herring said bowl workouts can be the toughest part of coaching.
"The hardest part of coaching is to make hard work fun," he said. "We came up with some ways to juice up practice each day and our players seemed to have some fun. We just tried to keep it interesting. Keeping it spaced out with some days off was the biggest thing."
Herring said he hopes the results from the game bear out some good planning.
"The end result, we want to go down there and beat Missouri," he said. "The focus is for these players to represent their families. I told them to go home now, give their mothers and daddies hugs and do what's right and then come back to us at the Cotton Bowl with the proper behavior. We'll get back to work down there.
"We want to give the Razorback Nation something for the future. We want to give Coach (Bobby) Petrino a platform. The message is that this one is for the state of Arkansas."
One of the key ingredients throughout the bowl workouts has been a healthy team. Wideout Marcus Monk has seen his performance rise since the end of the season. His knee continues to improve.
"I don't know what percentage I am, but I'm getting better," Monk said Thursday. "I feel a lot better coming in and out of my cuts."
As far as getting to go show NFL scouts that he's improved with one more game, Monk said, "That means a lot. I get a chance to show my progress. I've still got a long way to go in the healing process, but I'm a lot better. What I'm most happy about is that we've accomplished a lot these last two years. That's one of the things I'm pleased about and one of the reasons I want to play in this game."
Offensive coordinator David Lee was asked if Monk's health and thoughts from Herring about a wide-open offense would impact his calls in the game.
"Wide open? No comment," he said. "What you need to know is that I'm the same guy who called the plays all year long. I won't change for just this game."
However, he did say that the Hogs have gotten a lot of polish on the game plan. He just wouldn't say what kind of game plan is in the books.
"We've had good practices and good preparation," Lee said. "I'm pleased with where we are right now. We got a lot done."
He said he sees some cohesiveness in the offensive line, noting the move of Robert Felton to left tackle and the insertion of DeMarcus Love at right guard has been good for the offense.
"DeMarcus Love is a real physical presence," Lee said. "He was coming in preseason and then hurt his knee. He missed over one month. It took him awhile. He may be our most physical player.
"You can write this, I think DeMarcus is going to be a great player in the SEC. He's going to be an All-SEC player. He had a great game against LSU. Charles Dorsey was his assignment. Dorsey didn't play the whole game. He had some injury problems, but Love was outstanding against him. He was very physical in that game. He may be our best player as far as a physical presence in those five guys up front."
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