Sophomore wideout Joe Adams – who had a mild stroke a couple of weeks ago – was on the practice field Tuesday along with senior tailback Michael Smith, who had to miss the game with the Gators last weekend because of a hamstring problem.
Adams appearance – just a few days ahead of Saturday's game at No. 25 Ole Miss - was a huge pick up for the team according to fellow sophomore pass-catcher Jarius Wright.
"It meant a lot to us, especially as a receiving corp knowing that one of our top receivers is working hard to come back and help us out," Wright said. "We need the help from him; he's a big play receiver for us and another threat on the field...For him to come out in pads and come out on the field with us is a start."
Wright added that he knows how much Adams wants to be playing.
"It is a real good sight to see. I'm one of Joe's close friends, so I see him all around campus and everything," Wright said. "I know he's been coming along good, and I know he's going to be ready to go soon."
Wright can tell that Adams is eager to play.
"Me and Joe are good friends, and we hang around a lot," Wright said. "So I saw it in his eyes, too, that he was ready to get back out there. I'm also his roommate in the hotel, so we've had talks about how bad he wanted to play and how different of a game it would be with him."
The appearance of Adams, who had caught 16 passes for 316 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Razorbacks' first four games, also brought a smile to receiver coach Paul Petrino.
"It's a great sign," Petrino said. "No question. He is smiling and walking around in a great attitude."
Petrino does not know what kind of timetable Adams has as far as getting back into game action, but said the former Central Arkansas Christian star has stayed involved with the team as much as he could with his team.
"He is close to the whole group," Petrino said. "He has been around us the whole time, always still been part of the team and helps out everything in our meetings. I don't think to them it was any different because he has been around the whole time since he has been injured."
When he is able to return to the field, Adams will be a difference-maker once again according to Petrino.
"Joe is a great player," Petrino said. "I hope everyday that he is going to be back, but more importantly I just hope for him that he is healthy and fine. Whenever they tell us he is fine, I will be jumping up and down and happy as can be. Until then, I just wish him the best as he keeps getting better."
Wright added that Adams looked good.
"…He jogged a little bit (on Monday), kind of warmed up his legs to see if he was still OK with that," Wright said. "And he looked pretty good running around, jogging around and stuff. He looked pretty good today. He caught a couple of punts, so he looked fine."
Smith, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, had a breakout game against Auburn with 145 yards after a slow start.
The Florida native obviously wanted to play against the Gators, but just couldn't heal up in time.
"Mike wanted to go last week," Petrino said. "He went out for pre-game and wanted to go. He is one of our team leaders and a great player."
UA running backs coach Tim Horton said Smith is getting there, but is glad the game is on Saturday.
"He is getting better," Horton said. "If we played today, I doubt he could have played today. But thankfully we play on Saturday, and he did a good job in individual (drills) today. Didn't get a whole lot of team reps, but we'll just see how he progresses tomorrow."
That brought a question as to how Arkansas prepares when a player's status for a Saturday game is questionable during the week.
"He was out there moving around and I still just think it is a thing where you just check him out each day," Petrino said. "It was just good to see him out there."
"When guys are kind of on-and-off injured, you always have a plan for them and a plan without them," Petrino said. "So we had a plan both ways. We definitely had a plan for both situations."
Obviously adding Smith back into the mix would be a bonus for the Arkansas offense.
"I hope so," Petrino said when asked if he thought Smith would play this weekend. "I really look forward to that and hope we do, but again like every week you have a plan with all your skill players. We have our get-it-to list for all of our skill players. In the game of football, you can be gone in one play so you've got to always have a plan for all your guys."
"We have a plan for all of them (the skill guys) and whoever is in the game, we are going to use that plan," Petrino added.
Speaking of plans, Petrino noted that Tuesdays are a big day for both the coaches and players whether they are trying to put a big win or loss behind them.
"I think each week you put it behind you," Petrino said. "Tuesday's meeting is a hard meeting, you are inserting a whole new plan, a whole new offense each week on what you are going to do against the upcoming defense and you are teaching them what the defense is going to be. So I think every Tuesday is a definite day of coming out and starting a new plan."
It helps the plan if the players are producing and improving each week.
"I think anytime your players get better, it is more exciting to put together a game plan," Petrino said. "Each week you know what your strengths are and you watch the defense and you try to decide how you are going to attack them, put that plan together and practice it and then you pick out the best stuff is and that is what you go with and try to execute on Saturday."
He noted that the Razorbacks seem to respond well for the most part.
"I thought they energy was good and certain parts of the practice were real good," Petrino said. "The very end of the practice could have been a little bit better on execution, but I thought the energy was good. Each week you have got to move on and get ready for the next opponent, especially when you have a tough opponent like we do. We have got to get ready to go play."
One of the things Arkansas certainly wants to do is increase it's third-down conversion rate – which is last in the SEC right now despite having the league's best passing offense and one that has scored over 40 points in four of its six games.
"It is real important and part of getting better on third down is getting better on first and second down – getting in more medium-down situations," Petrino said. "We have just got to do a better job. It is something that we work hard on, always game plan and have always actually took great pride in being real good at. It is just something right now that we are not as good at as we need to be. Hopefully this will be our coming out week and we will light it up on third down."
Ole Miss certainly has one of the best defenses in the league- ranked 5th in team defense while allowing 300 yards total offense per game and 4th in pass defense (152.3).
On the other hand, Arkansas is the team's best passing offense at 302.5 yards per game – which is 76 more than runner-up Georgia.
"Ole Miss has real good defensive ends (Greg Hardy, Kentrell Lockett and Marcus Tillman)," Petrino said. "I think that is the strength of their defense. I think their free safety – number 1 (Kendrick Lewis) – is a real good football player, a real good tackler. He tackles high and is physical. They try to pack the box by what personnel you have. They definitely get after you by the personnel that you have in the game. I worked with (Ole Miss defensive coordinator) Tyrone (Nix) for three years at Southern Miss. He is a real good coach so they do a good job. It will be a battle. We have to go get after them."
While Arkansas fans certainly relish the match-up with their former head coach Houston Nutt, Petrino doesn't think it is hyped up too much when it comes to the players.
"I think most of our (key) guys are freshmen and sophomores and didn't play for Houston," Petrino said. "I know most of the guys I coach, except for London, most of the guys on offense were not old enough to play for him."