Forte Returns To Practice Field

Arkansas senior weakside linebacker Elston Forte didn't return to practice on Monday, but he did spend time on the sidelines between Walker Pavillion and Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Forte, who was left off Arkansas' first official depth chart, hasn't practiced for much of the preseason with an undisclosed injury.

Freshman Jelani Smith will start in Forte's place against Western Illinois on Saturday night.

"(Forte's) gotten better," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "He's improved a lot. We were hopeful that he might be out (Monday) and be able to work (Monday), but he was not. But he is running full speed, and if we're going to err, we're going to err on the side of caution with him."

Petrino said he expected Forte to "probably be out this whole week." Junior defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard said he hoped Forte would return soon. The Razorbacks miss the co-captain, Sheppard said.

"He's a vocal leader," Sheppard said. "We're going to miss him. Hopefully he can get back with us as soon as possible. I'd say (he'll be back in) a week and a half. We need him back as soon as possible."

Thoughts On Leathernecks

Sheppard didn't scoff at the notion of playing Western Illinois, a member of the Football Championship Subdivision. He knows the Leathernecks bring back 20 starters. He knows they have a "great running back" in senior Herb Donaldson.

And, of course, he knows about two last season's season-opening upset of Michigan by FCS member Appalachian State. So needless to say, Sheppard isn't walking around overconfident.

"I approach it like we're playing Florida or Southern Cal," Sheppard said. "I take nobody for granted. It's good to be paranoid. We're not going to take them for granted."

Petrino lauded the Leathernecks for the strength of their rushing attack and mentioned the challenges posed by the "unique style" of defense Western Illinois employs.

"It's a different style defense than we've seen in a long time," Petrino said. "They basically play with two stand-up linebackers over the guards up on the line of scrimmage and three linebackers behind them. We just have to focus in and not make any assignment errors — and play fast."

Defense Impresses In Scrimmage

Petrino said the Razorbacks defense played fast in Friday night's closed scrimmage, encouraging Arkansas' coaches with consistent effort and performance.

"That's what I was so happy about Friday night," Petrino said. "It was the best we've tackled. It's the best we've run to the ball. We got a lot of people to the ball and gang-tackled defensively."

Knee Still Bothering Curtis

Freshman running back De'Anthony Curtis got limited work during Monday's 90-minute practice, in which players sported helmets and shoulder pads and wore mesh shorts.

Curtis sprained his right knee during a morning scrimmage on Aug. 13, but he recently returned to the field. He was listed as the fourth running back on this week's depth chart.

"Actually, Friday night he was out there and went through a lot of the individual work and some of the group work prior to the scrimmage," Petrino said. "He did not take any reps in the scrimmage, but was in there rotating (Monday).

"I think (Monday night) and (this) morning will tell exactly where he's at. We do expect some swelling. Just how much will determine whether he's ready to practice full speed tomorrow and hopefully prepare for the game on Saturday."

Quick Hits

After a weekend off, the Razorbacks were a bit rusty throughout Monday's practice. "This will help (today's) practice be a lot better. Certainly, it wasn't as crisp as you'd like, but that's kind of expected on your first day of practice when school starts," Petrino said. ... Freshman running back Albert Gary still hasn't been cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center, Petrino said.

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