Just minutes before the start of practice Wednesday, Arkansas coaches and players got word of a staff change at Auburn. It didn't change the preparations the Razorbacks had made or their practice.
"We had looked at last year's game with Auburn, we had looked at the first half of the Vanderbilt game from last week, and that's what we expected from Auburn this week," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said after practice. "Whether they had made a change or not, we knew what to prepare to face."
That was in regard to news that Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville had dismissed Tony Franklin as offensive coordinator. It is expected that Tuberville and his remaining offensive staff would turn to more of a smashmouth style of football, moving away from the spread attack installed last year by Franklin.
"We all knew that even without that change to expect them to run the ball a lot more this week," Petrino said. "They have a physical offensive line and they have great running backs. We feel bad for Tony, but this is part of the profession."
Petrino said news got to him "right before we came to practice, but we had looked at last year's video of the Arkansas-Auburn game. We know those coaches well. We know their personality is to run the ball. We still have to prepare for the (elements of the spread) because that's in their third-down package. That's where there comfort zone is in some of their passing game. We will go off tendencies in past game film and the first half of the (Vanderbilt game)."
Concerning his own team, Petrino said Jamar Love's surgery to repair a broken thumb went well.
"They put two screws in (the thumb)," Petrino said. "It went well. They are optimistic he'll be back in two weeks. We'll see how quickly the bone grows. He's got a bone growth stimulator. We are optimistic he'll be back in that two week window."
Ramon Broadway will take Love's spot at cornerback. Shedrick Johnson is his backup. The corners on the other side are Isaaac Madison and Tramain Thomas.
"Broadway is a good football player," Petrino said. "He got an interception in the Alabama game and he can be scary for quarterbacks because he understands offense and has a tendency to jump routes. We are hoping he can get a couple more interceptions. He's played a lot and he's a very good football player, a very good tackler."
Also on the injury front, DeMarcus Love seem to be recovering from an ankle injury.
"He was better today than yesterday," Petrino said. "He did some things yesterday, but when we looked at the video, there were times he was flat footed. I think he moved around better today and we are anxious to see how he looked on the video."
Grant Cook continued to take the first-team repetitions at the guard spot after starting for DeMarcus Love against Florida.
However, Ray Dominguez, out last week because of a family illness, split time with Grant Freeman at tackle.
"Ray took a few more reps today with the ones," Petrino said. "We'll look at that on video."
Petrino said Shay Haddock worked with the first team on placements, but gave way on the longer kicks to Alex Tejada.
"They both kicked well," Petrino said. "When we got to the longer kicks, we jumped Alex in their with the ones and he knocked them right through. Really, they've both practiced well all year. That's what we've seen all year.
"I was embarrassed with our protection in the last game. That was just a simple protection bust. We worked really hard on the protection on our field goals this week. We put in extra time in that area. That just can't happen."
The Arkansas defensive front knows what to expect against Auburn. The players said they really didn't know of the coaching change there until after practice.
"I found out about two minutes ago," defensive end Jake Bequette said. "But you knew what they were going to do even before that. We did. You know that in the SEC, you have to stop the run first. That's the way it's going to be every week, and even moreso this week. If you are not ready to stop the run, you will be exposed. Our defense must make a statement ... that we can stop the run this week."
Defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard said he recalls the physical nature of last year's game with Auburn and expects the same.
"You know it's going to be very physical every week in the SEC, but this week we know what's coming," Sheppard said. "They are coming at us. It's a personal challenge. It's going to be right at us. To be honest, the stats tell you they should come at us. We haven't been very good at stopping the run. So you knew they would do that even before they made a coaching change.
"They haven't had an effective passing game yet, so that's why they are doing this. The best thing they've done is run the ball. The worst thing we've done is stop the run. It all adds up to them coming right at us."
Defensive tackle coach Bobby Allen knows it will be a war inside all day.
"We have to have four inside tackles ready and I think we do," Allen said. "Our backups have played a lot and they'll have to play a lot this week. What Auburn will want to do is come right at us and wear us down. We've gotten better play from Zach Stadther and Cord Gray of late. What you know you are going to get is effort from those guys."
Asked about the coaching change at Auburn, Allen said, "You knew they were going to run the ball this week. We'd done the work to prepare for some of the things they've done against us in the past. Coach Tuberville has been with some of those coaches for a long time and they are going to go to some of their stuff now. We know that. What you don't know is the tendency charts ... how much one-back and how much two-back. We have to be prepared for all of that."
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