It took Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino about 30 seconds to get into the battle at quarterback this week between brothers Casey and Nathan Dick. It took a few more minutes for him to get to the crux of the matter.
"We want to make sure that Mississippi State has to prepare for both of them," Petrino said.
Casey Dick didn't practice last week because of a concussion sustained late in the loss to South Carolina. That's when Nathan Dick got his first snaps as a Razorback. Nathan had redshirted last year and has not played until leading the Hogs on a touchdown drive late in the South Carolina game.
"We did like the way Nathan played in the closing minutes against South Carolina," Petrino said. "At the same time, that was not Casey's best game."
Petrino pointed out Casey's faults in that game in the media brieing just minutes after the game, then again in his television show on Monday. Casey sat out practices Tuesday through Thursday of last week. The team didn't work on Friday or Saturday. They had a short workout Sunday night.
Petrino thought Casey's practice Sunday night was fine. He said Casey and Nathan split the snaps about "50-50." The coach would not make a prediction on how the snaps would be split when the Hogs return to the practice field on Tuesday. There is no practice Monday.
"We'll see how the week goes," Petrino said. "I'm confident in either one of them."
Wide receiver Lucas Miller saw good things from both Dick brothers in Sunday's practice. He said there is little doubt that Nathan's performance in the South Carolina game added a little to the redshirt freshman's step in practice over the last week. He liked the way Casey practiced Sunday night.
"Casey came back yesterday with a great mindset," Miller said. "He threw the ball extremely well in practice last night. Carlton Salters and I were both talking about that after practice, the way he threw the ball harder and with more accuracy. He came back and practiced better."
As for Nathan Dick's practice, Miller said, "Him playing in a game that way helped him. He was more confident. You could see his reads in practice come a little quicker. He was quicker and that will help him for the future."
Petrino wants to make sure how Casey reacts to practice this week, coming off the concussion.
"We'll make sure he's healthy first," Petrino said.
As far as the way Nathan practiced in his brother's absence last week, Petrino said, "Nathan is excited. I was impressed with the way he handled himself. He has prepared himself well. He's shown some leadership in the huddle. He's stepped in there and I like the way the guys responded to a different guy. We'll see how he reacts to this situation this week."
Petrino was asked if he has thought about rotating the brothers the way South Carolina has rotated their quarterbacks, every other play?
"You never say never, but we haven't done that," Petrino said. "I learned a long time ago from a head coach I worked for, never is a long time and you don't ever want to say that."
Petrino was pleased with the way the Hogs practiced last week. He was disappointed with the performance at South Carolina.
"We didn't play physical and fast," he said. "So we worked on that. It wasn't so much the length of our practice last week in our bye week, but how we practiced. We put the pads back on and we went inside run against each other (ones versus ones), had some play-action runs sessions against each other.
"I didn't do a good job of getting us ready to play. We weren't physical enough (in practice). So we changed that."
Defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard said he would have rather kept playing games.
"Myself, I didn't think I needed that," Sheppard said. "I'd rather play games and save the rest for after the season. But it might have benefited the younger guys.
"Like coach said, we upped the tempo and we put the full pads back on. It was kinda like we went back to square one."
Miller said, "The focus of the week was to get our toughness back. We put on the pads. Coach stressed hitting. We didn't hit South Carolina like we've hit other teams. We tried to get back to full speed and swinging our pads this past week in practice."
The Hogs know what to expect from Mississippi State. They've won several games in a row against the Bulldogs, but none have been easy.
"When we won the West a couple of years ago, it was a hard-fought game," Miller said. "It's going to be hard fought again. It should be a good game. Two years ago, I think it came down to Chris Houston running a pass back and a kick return by Darren McFadden. We couldn't run the ball against them. Obviously, they have a very good defense. All of those MSU games have been close since I've been here."
The week off has helped the Hogs in the injury category. They should get a few players back.
"We are as healthy as we've been all year," Petrino said. "Michael Smith practiced last night. He looked quick and fast. His legs are rested. He practiced with a neck roll (for his shoulder stinger) and we probably are going to have to modify that a little bit.
"Adrian Davis should play this week. He's much better. Demario Ambrose is probably going to be back. He'll practice individual work this week and probably will play. Grant Cook is back at guard. Those guys should be back."
Petrino: QBs to Battle
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