Tuesday Grid Update, 10/21

University of Arkansas starting tailback Michael Smith continues to improve, but misses Tuesday's workout which gives true freshmen De'Anthony Curtis and Dennis Johnson a chance to split the first-team reps.

While University of Arkansas junior tailback Michael Smith took another day to heal up from his concussion, his true freshmen back-ups De'Anthony Curtis and Dennis Johnson got force-fed the football during Tuesday's workout.

That pair of former Arkansas high school standouts from Camden Fairview and Texarkana, respectively, split most of the work in Smith's absence.

"They took about the same amount of reps, both got a lot of work and it will be interesting to watch on tape," said Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, who noted junior Brandon Barnett also got a few carries. "They both were working hard, had a good bounce in their step and I thought it looked good."

Smith has touched the ball on almost half of Arkansas' 160 plays the past couple of weeks with almost 400 yards of total offense.

But he was unable to go during the fourth quarter of Arkansas' 21-20 loss at Kentucky on Saturday after suffering a big hit.

"I think he is getting better," Petrino said. "They held him out today, but from what I hear everyone is real optimistic that things are going to be real good."

Tight end D.J. Williams thinks that Smith will be ready to go as well.

"Just knowing Mike Smith, just knowing the person that he is, I do believe he will be ready to play and ready to go 100 percent," Petrino said. "But if one man is down, not just one person has to step it up, the whole team does."

Petrino said Arkansas was going to move to get other running backs more touches in the coming future anyway.

"It was just something in both games where we had a good plan and he was running it real well," Petrino said. "That's just kind of how it played out."

The Arkansas offense was limited Saturday by an injury to Williams, who was back and healthy in Tuesday's practice.

"He looked a better today so that was real encouraging," Petrino said. "He looked night and day better today than last week."

Williams agreed that he was feeling much better.

"I felt real good," Williams said. "I even came out and felt fast and that felt pretty good."

Petrino thought the overall tempo and mood of Tuesday's practice was a good one.

"We came out and I thought we practiced fast today and I thought the kids came back pretty good after a tough loss," Petrino said. "They came out and worked hard and flew around. It's a big week and we have got to go out and have a great week of practice and keep working hard to improve."

Petrino is familiar with Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix having coached with him for three years at Southern Miss.

"They do a good job, Tyrone and those guys," Petrino said. "I coached with Ty for three years at Southern Miss and he has got those guys running around and playing hard and doing a good job of stripping the ball. I think they've got a good defensive line. It is another good challenge. We've just got to get ready to go and go get after them.

"He definitely is a pressure guy and he is going to come after you and try to put pressure on you and confuse the O-line and the quarterback and do a lot of different things," Petrino added.

Williams is impressed with what he sees from the Rebels' defense.

"They are real physical," Williams said. "They may not be as big as we've seen, but I think they play very hard and are well coached. It will be a battle on every play."

Arkansas needs to be far more effective in the passing game than it was at Kentucky, throwing for loss than 100 yards.

"At times we didn't do a good enough job of getting open and at times we were open and didn't hit them," Petrino said. "It was just a combination of taking turns not executing.

"We have got to take great pride in getting better this week and making sure we do a better job this week," Petrino added.

Starting quarterback Casey Dick believes he and the offense are on the way to corrected that ineffectiveness through the air plus controlling motion and illegal shift penalties.

"The bottom line is that we just had too many missed opportunities," Dick said. "I've got to let guys get lined up. We gave them a little bit more time out of the huddle today. I think we've got that corrected."

The backdrop for this weekend's games is the fact that Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt was the head coach at Arkansas for the last 10 seasons and a lot of that same staff is with him in Oxford.

"I've got all the respect for Coach Nutt," Petrino said. "I don't really know him personally, but I coached against him one time when I was at Utah State and he was at Boise State. I just know him from afar, but I have a lot of respect for him."

That said, emotion does not go into the gameplan according to Petrino.

"We go in and we gameplan all week, see what their defense is doing and how we are going to attack them," Petrino said. "That really doesn't play into this stuff."

Williams noted that while the team is aware of who will be on the other sidelines, the Razorbacks are doing their best to to treat it as just another SEC game.

"That is something that I think – not just me but everybody on the team is going to block out for the game," Williams said. "We're here to play Ole Miss and not play Coach Nutt. We are just going to approach it like any other game."

"There are a whole bunch of players on this team who have a whole bunch of respect for him," Williams said. "…But it this team playing against his team. We just have to come out here and not worry about anything like that and just stay focused and worry about us."

Michael Smith leaves the field after the Kentucky game.

Photo by Marc. F. Henning

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