Some forecasts are putting Hurricane Ike squarely over Austin around game time Saturday, but weather was awesome for a long, long practice Tuesday in the Ozarks. The Hogs took advantage with some extra work for special teams and some changes.
"When we have changes in the depth chart, they show up as red," said Kirk Botkin, the Hogs' special teams coach. "There was a lot of red on our depth chart this week."
So far, that does not include the placekicker. Alex Tejada is still working with the first group, but there is no certainity that it will be like that by game time Saturday when the Hogs play at No. 8 Texas.
"We'll keep charting them, keep watching them kick all week," Botkin said. "We are watching both of them real close."
That would be Tejada and Shad Haddock. Tejada handled the kicking in the first half with Haddock taking over for the second half. Tejada missed two field goals and an extra point. Haddock nailed his two extra points.
The Hogs also had a punt blocked, had a kickoff return specialist step out of bounds at the 5-yard line and lost containment on a kickoff return so much that the kicker had to make the tackle at midfield.
After handling a half dozen media requests after practice Tuesday, Botkin was headed up the ramp at the north end of the practice field when he turned to get the attention of a reporter still on the field.
"The notebook you have there, you need to put in there that I take the blame for the special teams play last week," Botkin said. "Put it in there."
Earlier, he said there would be changes this week in several areas to get more experienced players on the field.
"We've got some linebackers coming back who can help on special teams," Botkin said. "It's like anything else, it's about getting good players on the field. Some of those players (Freddy Burton and Marques Wade) have been suspended the first two weeks. And, then we've had a few others (Ryan Powers, Elston Ford and Wendell Davis) that have played linebacker and on special teams who have been out with injuries.
"Really, there is no magic to it. We have to put the right people out there. That's the magic in it."
The battle between Tejada and Haddock heated up Tuesday and both know it.
"I think both of us had good days today," Haddock said. "I know as far as who gets to kick Saturday, I think it's still wait and see. Today, we both kicked pretty smooth. Both of us just need to keep doing what we are doing right now."
Botkin thought Tejada's steps "were a little off" against Louisiana-Monroe.
"But more than anything, it was probably more mental than anything else," Botkin said. "It's like a corner who gets beat, you have to forget a miss. I thought he was much better today. We moved over onto the grass today and I think that helped him. He had a better day.
"We talked about the technique (from the problems in the game). I think he felt like a golfer who gets his swing a little off. He couldn't figure it out for a little while, but it's fine now. Everyone on this team is pulling for him. I think he'll do fine this week."
But Botkin stopped short of predicting Tejada would definitely kick against Texas.
"We'll see," he said. "We'll kick all week. We'll see how he does. We'll see how Haddock does."
Haddock, transfer from TCU, saw his first game action since high school days. He saw no action as a true freshman at TCU and sat out at Arkansas last year.
"That was a great experience, felt great," Haddock said. "You might say it would be a surprise for me (to kick in the game) going in ahead of time, but it wasn't a surprise after what happened (in the first half). Alex was having a bad day. We've all had bad days like that.
"We are definitely friends and it was tough seeing that happen. At the same time, it's a good competition. We try to help each other."
Haddock is excited about the trip back to his home state. He grew up as a fan of many schools in Texas, including the Longhorns.
"Yeah, I was a Texas fan, but no, I absolutely don't have any Texas stuff," he said. "I know a lot of those guys down there. I played with some and against some in my district. It's exciting to go back down to Texas."
Tejada said he had a tough time for a day or two after the game, but has put it behind.
"The main thing, Coach (Bobby) Petrino made some adjustments at halftime and we won the game," he said. "That's what I want, for my team to win."
As for his individual play, he said, "I've never had an experience like that. But I've put it behind me. I just have to work harder and that's what we did today. What's important is to get better this week and win again. This is a big game, a big week. We've got a lot of big games coming up and we want to get better this week."
It's a huge game for all of the Hogs, including center Jonathan Luigs. He was a redshirt the last time the two teams played. He understands Texas is a big favorite.
"I don't remember much about the game except the fumble by Matt (Jones)," Luigs said. "It's a real big game for us and our fans. I hate to say it's our first real test because those first two were pretty big tests for us, too. So we've had two tests.
"We look forward to the challenge. It's to be expected (that Texas is favored). They are ranked and we have struggled."
As to the idea of taking freshmen on the road for a big game, Luigs said, "It will be interesting to see how they handle it. For seniors like myself, it's our job to make sure they are prepared. I think we will step up to the challenge."
Luigs knows a big part of the battle will be how Arkansas handles the Texas front four.
"They are really good up front," he said. "That means the game is in our hands, the offensive line. "
Offensive line coach Mike Summers said, "All four of the Texas defensive linemen are marque players. We have our hands full there."
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said the same thing and pointed to three experienced linebackers.
"They are big and fast up front and the three linebackers are really smart," Petrino said. "You can tell that they have all played a lot of football. That defensive front is definitely the strength of their team, no question.
"We have to go prepare to play and see what happens. The weather -- you hear a lot of things, about the Hurricane -- but what happens, happens. It's great either way. We just have to go down there, be aggressive and not hold anything back."
Tuesday Grid Update, 9/9
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