Wednesday Grid Update, 9/10

Hurricane Ike looms large, but Arkansas continued preparations nonetheless. Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson liked Wednesday's practice.

With no word on whether or not Hurricane Ike will cause a postponement of Saturday's battle between Arkansas and Texas, it was clear that Arkansas plans were full speed to prepare for the Longhorns after practice Wednesday in the Ozarks.

"We had a really good practice, two really good practices the last two days," said Willy Robinson, Arkansas defensive coordinator.

"It's fun coming out to practice when we work like that."

Some of the fun might be regaining a few of the Arkansas defensive regulars. Senior captain Elston Forte is available again after missing the first two weeks with an injury. Also back in the mix are linebackers Freddy Burton and Ryan Powers.

"We are getting back to full strength," Robinson said of the growing depth. "That's good to see. All of a sudden we have some numbers again. We are extremely happy with that. We've got some guys moving around pretty good. Getting those guys back has helped.

"Elston Forte has really moved around well the last two days. It's good to see that. We have to see if he can continue to play at game speed and help us this week. We have to make sure he gets the reps and we can evaluate that."

Forte was voted captain in preseason, but has been relegated to cheerleader over the first two weeks.

"It's the hardest thing I've ever done," Forte said. "But I'm proud of the young guys who have played. They have performed well. I've tried to stay involved and encourage and help them every way I can."

Robinson said the Hogs can't do anything about the weather or Texas plans, so they are getting ready to play.

"We can't create rain (to practice in), so we will just have to make adjustments after we are down there," he said. "We expect to play."

Asked if he was concerned about playing so many freshmen in a big road game, Robinson said, "We think they will give 100 percent just like the last two weeks. We'll be ready."

The Arkansas defensive coordinator is impressed by what he's seen of the Texas offense, especially quarterback Colt McCoy.

"You see the growth from last year (in McCoy)," he said. "Last year, he was flighty and wanted to move from the pocket. Now he doesn't seem bothered by pressure. He does a great job. He can move inside the pocket and wait for his receivers to clear open. He's more mature. He does a great job with the reads and going through his progressions from the second to the third.

"You see this offensive line and they are tremendous. They have big fast, good tackles, but they are very good at center and guard, too. They run fast up front and look very good."

Robinson said he hopes to do a better job in the game than he did last week. He said he felt he put his team in harm's way with some poor calls, especially in the third quarter.

"I think what I worried about was the quarterback running and we really concentrated on that in practice, that and stopping the run," Robinson said. "I just did a poor job. I focused on the run too much in our practice work and we got hurt by the pass. I have to do a better job in that area.

"I made a mistake by loading up the box in the third quarter and put some pressure on us in the passing game. We just hadn't seen them be able to do those things in our tape as far as the passing game and we thought their QB wanted to run more.

"The good news was that we tackled better. We did some things better in the run game."

Without question, Texas presents more problems with balance and ability.

"They can run it and they can pass it," Robinson said. "They are pretty well balanced and it's tough to try to play one or the other. They have a very good offense and are talented in a lot of areas. They have great speed and ability and they are very good at quarterback."

This will be Robinson's first Texas experience, but he's heard plenty about the series.

"I worked with some coaches (in the NFL) who played and coached here and they told me about the Texas game," Robinson said. "Tommy Brasher and Rich Olson told me it was the most incredible experience in their career,s playing and coaching against Texas. They said it meant everything to the state. It's all they ever talked about, what the Texas game was like. I've heard about this rivalry all of my life. I think it's one of those games that you look back on forever."

Robinson coached with Brasher and Olson with the Seattle Seahawks. Brasher played and coached at Arkansas. Olson was an assistant under Lou Holtz at Arkansas. Brasher works as a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles. Olson is offensive coordinator at Arizona State.

"And, I've talked with Tim Horton and Bobby Allen," Robinson said. "They've experienced it. We know it's going to be a great atmosphere and is a big game to both teams."

Forte has seen only one Arkansas-Texas game. It was on a visit as a high school player to Reynolds Razorback Stadium four years ago.

"The crowd and the vibe in this stadium that night was incredible," he said. "It made me want to come here and be a part of this program. It was a big reason I picked Arkansas, the crowd that night."

However, Forte said the Hogs must think about more than the rivalry. They have to improve in a lot of areas after close calls the first two weeks.

"We've worked hard on creating turnovers, done a lot of drills to focus on that area," he said. "But you have to understand, we work on those things every day anyway. There may be a little more focus on it now (after two games with no turnovers). If we drop an interception in practice, you may be doing some pushups."

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