Arkansas returned to the practice field Tuesday with a bounce in its step after knocking Auburn from the top 25 with a 25-22 road victory last week. Rain showers in the early afternoon forced the Hogs inside Walker Pavilion for the workout in full pads.
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said the energy was good, leading to a solid workout with a good start on the game plan for this week's trip to Kentucky.
"We came out today with pretty good energy and had a pretty good practice," Petrino said. "We got some things down as far as the plan and hopefully that will lead to a good week."
Petrino said the Wildcats are simple and excellent -- strong up the middle on defense, relying on great play from their two defensive tackles, middle linebacker and free safety.
"They are pretty basic," he said. "They don't pressure much. They play man on your wide receivers, what we call pressure three coverage. They do a good job. They play hard. They have done a pretty good job with what they do. They are going to be good at their scheme and you just have to out-execute them.
"They depend on those two tackles winning for them up front. We've got our hands full with them. What we have to do is out-technique them and beat them to the punch. We have to play our technique faster than they do. If we do that, we'll have a good chance to move the ball.
"Auburn had a good front, too. We did a good job against their defensive front. We have to do that again this week. We have to pound on those big tackles and wear them down. We can't let them stay fresh. They don't feel like they have to blitz with those guys. They think they can put pressure on the quarterback with their front four."
Kentucky doesn't rely on blitzes, a problem that has kept some of the young Arkansas running backs on the bench and put a heavy load on Michael Smith. The lack of blitzes may mean De'Anthony Curtis and Dennis Johnson get more snaps this week.
Petrino said putting too much on Smith's smallish frame is a "real concern and maybe we can get him some rest this week. Our young backs are coming along. There won't be as much (blitz) this week and that might help them a little bit."
However, Petrino said it was a matter of sticking with the hot hand -- actually the stud.
"Our system is feed the studs," Paul Petrino said. "Michael is our stud. He was having a good game."
Running backs coach Tim Horton said Smith never backed away from the challenge. He wanted every carry.
"Michael doesn't lack for confidence, never has," Horton said. "What you see is that he's really matured as a player in the way he studies, the way he prepares. It's probably just a matter of getting his chance. When you are third behind the two we had the last three years, it's hard to think you are going to get many carries.
"He's done a great job of answering the call. He is practicing great. He's ready for everything we do."
Petrino was asked if the Auburn victory sets the Hogs up for a good finish.
"As coaches, we are only looking at this week," he said. "It's one at a time. What we are stressing is to compete our tails off and hopefully get a victory this week."
Some of the other freshmen at the skill positions are getting time, led by Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs at wide receiver.
"Child had a nice game this past week," Petrino said. "I got mad at him two weeks ago in practice. I didn't think he was practicing hard enough, so I didn't play him. He did better last week so he played. He had another good day today so I think he'll get time this week. He's starting to figure it out.
"Really, our freshmen are doing pretty good. I think when we get to the end of the year we'll see that there was quite a bit of production there. That should be good for the next three years with those guys. I forget sometimes they are true freshmen. They can get you excited."
Part of the plan features the Arkansas freshmen against press man-to-man coverage by the Kentucky cornerbacks.
"Not a lot of people have tried to challenge those cornerbacks, but we will," Petrino said. "We'll challenge them and find out about them."
Petrino said Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick had one of his better performances against Auburn, but can play better.
"He made a couple of mistakes, but one of the interceptions wasn't his fault -- it was Joe's fault," Petrino said. "Joe made the wrong read, ran the wrong route.
"Casey did some good things. One of the best things he did was tuck it and run some. If he can do that and be a willing runner, that changes things. There are times that they just get in those man-under looks and there is no one watching him. If he runs it a few times, that gets them out of that and helps our passing game. They just don't account for the quarterback. He made some nice reads and runs."
One of the runs was a called run and led to a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal situation. Head coach Bobby Petrino credited Paul Petrino for the call from the box.
"Well, I probably talk too much sometimes and he tells me to shut up," Paul Petrino said. "What I try to do is go over what's on our script that we've made early in the week. I just go through some of those plays and sometimes Bobby likes one. He does a great job of taking what I say and sort through it. Mike Summers is giving us some ideas between the possessions, too.
"I take our practice scripts and have notes on those sheets on what we did well during the week. If we've done well against that scheme with something in practice, I'll throw it out sometimes during the game. I'm giving him a lot of information and he's just taking what he wants. That run by Casey was just a suggestion. But it was in the game plan. It was something we thought would be good against their scheme."
The Hogs may be close to getting Ernest Mitchell back at defensive tackle. He was available for the early stages of practice. Mitchell had his knee scoped after the Texas game two weeks ago.
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