Arkansas began to scale back its work load Saturday in hopes of having fresh legs for Tuesday's Cotton Bowl game with Missouri. The Hogs worked for about 70 minutes on SMU's practice field.
Post-practice questions centered on Darren McFadden's availability for the game. Arkansas officials connected to NCAA compliance issues have yet to issue a statement after questions about his eligibility came forth in regards to a television report from Little Rock.
Interim head coach Reggie Herring said the staff is confident enough about McFadden's status that "we've added a few new plays for him." He said he expects an announcement from the school shortly on McFadden's status. He said, "We aren't worried about it."
Peyton Hillis, senior fullback, sat out the workout to rest a tweaked hamstring from the day before. Hillis said he would probably rest it again Sunday, but will play. He called it a "minor tweak." Wideout Robert Johnson also sat out with a sore leg. Wideout Marcus Monk practiced for the third straight day in Dallas.
"We are winding down our practices," Herring said. "We've got one more practice here. We took the pads off today. We want to get our legs back. We'll cut back the curfew. We are doing the things to get in the frame of mind to play the game now.
"We had a great practice today. The offense ran 60 plays to near perfection. There were two exceptions, two offsides. Otherwise it was excellent focus. The defense flew around and had a good day."
Offensive coordinator David Lee called it an outstanding workout. He was encouraged afterwards in regards to the play of wideout Marcus Monk.
"He's practiced three straight days and that's good, but I didn't think he looked particularly good on Friday," Lee said. "Marcus slipped a lot and he wasn't able to stay off the ground. He went down three times. Don't know what caused it. But it alarmed me. Today was different. Maybe he had better cleats for the field we practiced on. But he was good today.
"I think it looks better for him after today. He needed to see if he had the conditioning to make an entire workout. Today he did better."
Monk was encouraged by his practice Saturday.
"I do need to see if I have the conditioning to stay on the field every play," Monk said. "You lose the muscle tone, the conditioning when you can't practice every day. You lose that game shape."
Arkansas released a statement before the media met with a selected group of players and offensive coordinator David Lee at the media hotel. In summary it said the university continues to investigate the report about an automobile and a student-athlete. It did not mention the player or the media outlet by name, but noted the media outlet's apology. It also noted that the student-athlete has not lost his eligibility.
Darren McFadden was at the media session and was swarmed by reporters. He answered all questions, but wasn't able to shed a lot of light on the investigation. He said he has not visited with anyone in an official capacity about the matter and doesn't know if he'll be asked any questions from UA officials. Someone did ask him to describe the vehicle and he said, "It's black."
He was also asked about the gas mileage the vehicle gets and he responded with a laugh. About the reports, McFadden said he's now used to rumors about anything and everything and knows there is no truth to them.
Offensive coordinator David Lee said there has been nothing of late that can distract the players and he spoke about McFadden's practices in Dallas.
"Our guys are now used to these type of things and it doesn't bother them," Lee said. "I can tell you that it hasn't been a distraction to Darren. If it was, you'd see him missing assignments, jumping or doing things in the offense as far as breaking assignments. He's been awesome. He is very focused and he's ready for this game. So are the rest of our guys.
"They are businesslike and working hard in preparation. They are quiet on the bus. They are ready to work each day in practice. They have great intensity about what they are doing. I've been coaching for over 30 years. I can tell you when a bunch is motivated to play. This bunch is motivated."
Tailback Felix Jones said he's seen that intensity, too.
"It has been about going to work, taking care of business here," Jones said. "I can tell you it's been different than last year's bowl. We have been very intense. We know we have a great opponent. We want to play well in this game. Our guys have been ready. Our coaches have been ready."
Darren McFadden visits with the media at a Cotton Bowl press conference Saturday. The Doak Walker Award sits beside him.
QB Casey Dick fires a pass in practice Saturday.
Reggie Herring encourages the Razorbacks before practice Saturday morning.
Photos by Marc F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated
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