Receiver Lucas Miller is preparing to undergo surgery on torn ligaments in his knee.
The two injured players — who played big roles in 2008 — aren't expected to be ready when Arkansas returns to the practice field in the spring.
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said Miller will be sidelined because of the knee injury he suffered in the second half of last Friday's game. Miller went down after catching a 20-yard pass during a drive that eventually led to an Arkansas field goal.
"Talking with our doctors and talking with the training staff they think they get the operation and get it fixed," Petrino said. "Obviously he wouldn't be in spring ball, but timetable-wise he has a good opportunity to be ready if not for the first part of camp, but the middle of camp."
Miller was fourth on the team in receptions (30) and second in receiving yards (490).
He pulled in 24 passes for 385 yards and two touchdowns in the final five games. That included a 10-catch, 201-yard effort against Mississippi State.
Smith, who missed the LSU game after suffering a hamstring injury in the first half against MSU, underwent surgery on his hamstring last week.
The junior was the centerpiece of Arkansas' ground game after compiling 1,414 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008. He was the ninth Razorback to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark despite missing two games and being slowed by injury in two others.
"He's back and he's doing well," Petrino said. "It will be a situation where he probably won't get a lot of work in spring ball, but he'll be 100 percent by the fall."
QB Battle Brewing?
Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett is the odds-on favorite to win the starting quarterback job next season, but Petrino said he's expecting a wide open competition in spring practice.
Mallett, redshirt freshman Nathan Dick and freshman Tyler Wilson will be the top candidates for the job if all three are healthy and remain on campus. Wilson opened the season as Arkansas' backup quarterback before being sidelined with mononucleosis. Dick started the last two games.
"It will be interesting to see how they handle that," Petrino said. "I know that they are all looking forward to the competitiveness of it. It should be a good competition. I know I'm looking forward to it."
Petrino said Dick was getting treatment on his injured thumb earlier this week and anticipates no problems for the spring. He also said Wilson — who returned to practice the final week of the season — should be ready for action this spring as long as there are no setbacks in his recovery.
"The last time that he went in and did the ultrasound, it had reduced," Petrino said of Wilson. "They said that he could go out and throw the ball and exercise as long as he was not around any contact. So what we'll do, when we get back from Christmas break, he'll go in and see the doctors again. But knock on wood, I would plan that he would be ready to do everything (this spring)."
Defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard was the Razorbacks' most productive player this season. The junior led the team in tackles for losses (14.5) and sacks (6.5). He was second in tackles (68).
Arkansas believes he'll make even more plays in 2009. But it could come from a different position.
Petrino said Sheppard could return to defensive end where he played his first two seasons. Petrino and Sheppard discussed the move Wednesday morning and the decision could rely on how much bigger the 6-foot-3, 277-pound Sheppard grows this winter.
"The idea is if he can get to 290-295, he could be a very good, very active pass rusher inside," Petrino said. "If he can't carry that weight, playing defensive end is a possibility."
Petrino said the Razorbacks will be seeking medical redshirts from the NCAA for three players this winter: Wilson, linebacker Jelani Smith and cornerback Jerell Norton.
Smith started the first two games before being knocked out of action by an injury. Norton was on and off the field because of hernia and hamstring injuries. Wilson played in two games.
The Hogs are counting on Mitch Petrus to return after the senior was academically ineligible. He entered the preseason as a starting guard, but redshirted and spent the year on the practice field.
"He's got very good leadership potential," Petrino said of Petrus. "We need him to be part of us."
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