Thursday Grid Update, 11/13

Arkansas' offensive coordinator said quarterback Nathan Dick has shown improvement in his work with the first-team offense this week.

The helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked Casey Dick out of the South Carolina game, and has kept him off the practice field, is giving Arkansas a unique experience at quarterback this week.

Someone other than the senior is getting a chance to run the first-team offense.

Dick's brother, Nathan Dick, wrapped up a three-day stretch with the first-team offense Thursday. It was Arkansas' final practice before breaking for its off weekend and one more opportunity for the sophomore to get some work under his belt in case he is needed against Mississippi State on Nov. 22.

"He's done a pretty good job," offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said. "It's been real good for him. He's gotten a ton of reps and I think he's improved a lot in the last two days."

Casey Dick's status for the Mississippi State game remains unknown because of the concussion he sustained against South Carolina. The injury gave Nathan Dick his first chance to play at the collegiate level. The sophomore stepped on the field and completed 4-of-8 passes for 38 yards, leading the Hogs on a 15-play, fourth quarter touchdown drive.

Center Jonathan Luigs said the new quarterback was excited about his opportunity to play and it showed on the field. And it has continued in practice.

"That's not the way he wanted to get those reps, with his brother getting hurt, but he had a smile on his face coming into the game and he was real excited to be on the field," Luigs said. "When you have a guy that has that much passion for the game and that much desire to want to play, it's fun for him to be able to come in and get those reps."

Nathan Dick was asked if he thought his brother would return to practice Sunday, but said he "wasn't sure when that's going to happen."

However, Dick said he was eager to get the work in practice.

"I was excited to come out here and get a lot of reps," he said. "I just want to come out here every day and improve, and it's going good so far."

Paul Petrino was asked if he felt comfortable with Nathan Dick standing under center if he had to against Mississippi State next Saturday. He said the Razorbacks have learned a lot about him this week.

"That's what's been great about him getting the reps," Petrino said. "We do feel comfortable. If that's the scenario, then we're 100 percent behind him and go get after it."

• Another prominent offensive player, running back Michael Smith, continued to miss practice because of his shoulder injury. Arkansas running backs coach Tim Horton said the Razorbacks won't know if Smith will be available for Mississippi State until next week.

"He basically hadn't practiced this week, and he's rehabbing," Horton said. "We'll just take a look at him the first part of next week and see if he can play against the Bulldogs."

Without Smith, the Razorbacks have been relying on Brandon Barnett and Dennis Johnson to carry the load in practice. The run game has been an emphasis, too, because of its poor outings the past two weeks.

Arkansas gained a total of 104 yards against Tulsa and South Carolina. Even more, it averaged just 1.7 yards a carry and Petrino said improvement must be made in time for the Bulldogs.

"That's real important," Petrino said. "Any time you can establish the run game, it makes it easier for everybody else. So that's something that's real important and that's why we've had some long, run, play-action sessions the last two nights."

• Overall, Petrino said it has been a good three days of work for the Razorbacks.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said his team would get back to becoming more physical during the off week and the Razorbacks believe it has paid off as they step away from the practice field until Sunday.

"We've had long practices," Petrino said. "Got a lot of just calling it up, which sometimes is good. That way you're just not going over and over the scripts, you find out what guys know and don't know.

"It's good learning and we've had a whole bunch of reps with the regular guys and we stayed out extra and got a bunch of reps with guys of the future."

One "young" player in particular that has impressed Paul Petrino is redshirting quarterback Ryan Mallett.

The former Michigan starter, who is sitting out the season because of NCAA transfer rules, has gotten more work with the offense with extra time this week and continues to give Arkansas confidence at quarterback for 2009.

"He just has an air about himself when he steps in the huddle and the way he handles himself," Petrino said. "He's just a natural leader that people are going to follow. It's been real good for him the last couple days to get a bunch of reps."

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