Thursday Grid Update, 10/16

Arkansas may not have defensive tackle Ernest Mitchell against Kentucky after all. Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson answered questions about the senior after Thursday's workout.

Arkansas worked for about 75 minutes in shoulder pads and shorts Thursday on the outside practice fields with praise from defensive coordinator Willy Robinson.

"It's been a good week, it built as we went through it," Robinson said, noting each day was progressively better. "We really improved Tuesday through Thursday."

There was a lot of talk after Wednesday's workout that nose tackle Ernest Mitchell might play this week at Kentucky, just a little over two weeks removed from knee surgery. Robinson said that was doubtful after Thursday's workout.

"We are going to be very careful with Ernest," Robinson said. "Ernest really wants to come back now, wants to play badly. But we are doing well with what we have on the field now and there are still a lot of games for him to play. We want to take it easy with him. Today, we just pulled back on what (Mitchell) did."

Robinson said this week is a lot like last week in that the Razorbacks must prepare for two quarterbacks with different styles. Kentucky appears ready to rotate between a passer and a runner under center.

"We will see them both," he said. "This time it's a little different in that one of them will be playing wide receiver."

That may make it tougher for the Hogs to recognize when the runner moves to quarterback.

"We will have to recognize in a hurry when he does play quarterback," Robinson said. "But I think our kids will respond."

Robinson said the play of Zach Stadther and Cord Gray at nose tackle made it easier to hold Mitchell back another week.

"Stadther has played well," Robinson said. "He's an anchor point for our defense. He can take a double team, hold his ground. And, of late, he's started to split that double team and make plays. If you require a double team there at nose, that really frees up your middle backer to float, scrape and make plays. That's what has happened.

"Stadther is tough, quick and he understands his role. He's gotten better and better."

Robinson said Mitchell's fast recovery helps protect some of the other young linemen that the Hogs would like to keep on the redshirt list. Alfred Davis, redshirted to this point, has been a bright spot at nose tackle in practice over the last couple of weeks.

"He's big, quick and has great feet," Robinson said. "He may be something special. But he's on the right track (redshirting)."

Robinson said the defensive ends have had a good week in a competitive situation. He said it's the spot on the defense where there is good depth. The Hogs plan to rotate Adrian Davis, Jake Bequette, Demario Ambrose and Antwain Robinson equally.

"It doesn't matter to the coaches who starts there, but it does to them," he said. "It's nice to see them go back and forth in practice working for that start. To be honest, I wish we had that situation at other places on defense. It's ideal."

Asked if there was ever a temptation to move one of those ends to linebacker when the Hogs were almost void there earlier in the season, Robinson was extremely firm.

"Not at all, ever," he said. "The end position is so important. Rotating there and keeping players fresh inside at the two tackle positions is such an important aspect of what we believe. It's critical. So we understood that we would not move any of those ends. I'm not sure they had the quickness to handle it anyway."

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