Thursday Grid Update, 10/23

Michael Smith practiced again Thursday. Will he start against Ole Miss? Bobby Petrino addressed that question after the Hogs finished their workout.

Arkansas expects to have Michael Smith for the Ole Miss game after the junior running back made it through his second straight practice Thursday. Smith missed Tuesday's workout after sustaining a concussion last week against Kentucky.

"We had a good practice," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "Michael Smith took about 65 percent of the snaps today. He ran, caught and handled pass protection."

Would he start against the Rebels?

"It's encouraging," Petrino said. "We'll see how he is over the next 24 hours. If there aren't any setbacks, I'd say so. He felt great this morning."

In that regard, Smith will be checked again Friday morning.

The Hogs also may get back a couple of defensive starters against the Rebels. Ernest Mitchell and Jamar Love both missed the last three games with injuries. Mitchell, a defensive tackle, had knee surgery. Love, a cornerback and defensive captain, had surgery to put a screw in a broken thumb.

Mitchell has practiced the last two weeks. Love has returned to workouts this week.

"We'll have Ernest for the game," Petrino said. "Love will dress and could be available this week."

Petrino knows what to expect from the Ole Miss offense, plenty of points.

"They've been an offense that has scored on everybody," he said. "They have the ability to drive the ball and score points. We better score and score some touchdowns. It's going to be that kind of a game."

And, he knows that the Hogs can't wait on Smith to make big plays.

"We have to get plays out of other people besides Michael," Petrino said. "We have to get our tight end back into the action. We have to include our wide receivers. The big key will be how well our front protects. They've got a good defensive line and they can get after you."

Defensively, there will be a challenge in handling what is a big, physical Ole Miss offensive line.

"Alabama's was big, but this is a big, physical, well-coached line, too," Petrino said. "We have to do a good job up front and get our linebackers playing downhill. We don't want to be giving ground up front."

Backup quarterback Tyler Wilson is out this week after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. Petrino said Nathan Dick and Alex Mortensen have split snaps with the backup unit for the week.

Practices have been shortened on the week, around 15 minutes each day.

"We are just trying to get them mentally and physically ready," Petrino said. "We've tried to be smart with them this week since we didn't have the bye week where we needed it. It's a long grind."

Practice might be shorter, but the day hasn't gotten shorter.

"We've tried to use that extra 15 minutes in the meeting rooms," Petrino said. "So the last three days, we've gone straight from the practice field to the meeting room. For example, the offensive line and the running backs have gone in a meeting and they've looked at the 15-minute video from the team run segment. That really gets them onto the video when they are still thinking about what they've done. Our players have liked it."

It's obvious to Petrino that the players have practiced well. Asked if the return of Houston Nutt, the former coach, as Ole Miss coach has been a distraction, he had an interesting answer.

"Actually, I don't think it has been (a distraction)," Petrino said. "Our players have looked fresh and good in practice. If anything, it's gotten them going. We've had energy and have practiced really hard. They look like they are excited to be out here.

"I think our players are looking forward to the game and the atmosphere Saturday night. I think they are excited to be back playing at home."

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