Arkansas put the wraps on its Cotton Bowl preparation at the SMU practice field with a 70-minute workout Sunday with a large contingent of Arkansas fans on hand.
Peyton Hillis sat out practice for the second straight day because of a minor hamstring problem. Reggie Herring, interim head coach, said Hillis would be full speed for the game.
Hillis "tweaked" his hamstring on Friday and did not practice Saturday. Herring called it a "precaution" and said Hillis could have practiced both days.
"We just want to make sure he is full go for the game and think he will be," Herring said. "This was just a precaution."
Herring said the Hogs have had solid workouts leading up the bowl game and he said he didn't think the team had been distracted by coaching changes. He said the fact that it would be the last game for many members of the coaching staff (only Tim Horton and Bobby Allen will return) has not been a factor to this point.
"Obviously, when we go out to work in practice, we forget certain things," he said. "When that all sets in is when the last ticks go off the clock in the Cotton Bowl, that's when you realize that you are done as Razorbacks. It will become emotional at that point. But that's life. Personally, it will be emotional. I've bled and sweated here the last three years. I'm fond of this place and even fond of you guys (in the media). I've come to love and respect you guys."
Is Herring done after the game?
"After the game," he said. "We'll see then."
Until then, it's full speed in preparation. Interim defensive coordinator Louis Campbell said the Hogs are "close to getting things down" as far as recognition of Missouri schemes.
"They do so many things, it's tough on you," he said. "We made a few mistakes today, but it was overall about as good as you could expect. Our preparations have been good. But you know that with their quarterback, he is going to take advantage of any mistakes you make. We are probably as ready as you could be, though."
The Hogs will change a few things in their pre-game routine to be wide awake for a 10:40 a.m. kickoff.
"We moved the chapel to the night before," Campbell said. "We'll ask them to take a cold shower in pre-game and we'll probably hit on them a little more in pre-game. With an early start, you want to start the game playing fast. So we will try a few things to make sure we are ready to go early."
The Hog will have to adjust to a manpower shortage as far as the coaching staff. They lost two members, Houston Nutt and Chris Vaughn. Campbell moves out of the press box where he charted for offensive coordinator David Lee. Allen moves from the sideline to the box where he'll be Campbell's eyes.
Interestingly, this is just the reverse from the 2000 Cotton Bowl against Texas when Allen became interim defensive coordinator when Keith Burns became head coach at Tulsa. Campbell moved to the box to be interim secondary coach in support of Allen.
"This is the opposite, yes, but it's not much different than what we did before," Allen said. "Louis Campbell and I fit like an old glove. There hasn't been much of an adjustment."
The two head coaches visited with the media in a formal press conference for about 30 minutes Sunday morning. There wasn't a lot that came out of it, per the usual at these type of events.
One thing discussed was the potential availability of Darren McFadden for the game. Reggie Herring indicated that he's confident McFadden will play. He's in the plans.
The question from the media: Is the McFadden situation resolved in a definitive way?
"You had to screw it up by putting in the definitive part," Herring laughed. "We fully expect Darren to play. At some point in time, we do think it will be resolved in a definitive way. Right now, the SEC, Coach Broyles, Jeff Long and Marvin Caston -- people of a higher source -- are going through things. Darren is a great, great person. He would never do anything to hurt Arkansas or his teammates. The sad thing is that the process makes it look like there is something wrong. They will get to the bottom of this soon."
Again, the Arkansas coaches and players believe McFadden will play against Missouri. They have been told nothing to believe he won't play.
Herring also tried to put to rest that the McFadden situation would become a distraction for this team in preparations or in the game.
"This team has been through so much it is truly mentally tough," Herring said. "For anyone who thinks this is going to bother this team, they are wrong. What you learn about this team in something like this and the things they've been through is that there is one domain that is sacred. You go to practice and go to work. You block out all other things. There is one focus to this team. The stock market could crash and they wouldn't know anything. Osama Bin Laden could ride by on a horse and they wouldn't know it."
Herring handed out praise for McFadden's work ethic in bowl practices.
"He's talented and he's spirited," Herring said. "He goes out to practice like he's going to recess. It's a very hard game, but he excels in that arena, practice. He has the tenacity to thrive in it."
That goes for the rest of the team, too.
"I think this team is built of teflon," he said. "They have a coating of extra hardness and mental toughness. They've been through a lot. Regardless of the outcome of this game, I've gained so much respect for these players."
The Arkansas line poses with assistant coach Mike Markuson (far left), graduate assistant Jeff Norrid (far right) and backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The line, left to right, Nate Garner, DeMarcus Love, Jonathan Luigs, Mitch Petrus, Robert Felton and Jose Valdez.
Darren McFadden reaches for a pass in warmups.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and Arkansas coach Reggie Herring pose at press conference Sunday.
Photos by Marc F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated
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