The Future

After Saturday's practice, Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino touched on a variety of subjects - including Ryan Mallett's future, Colton Nash's expected position next season, David Gordon's health, how the regular season ended and what he hopes for next year.

The two most asked questions around the University of Arkansas' athletic programs right now are very easy to pinpoint.

When will starting point guard Courtney Fortson play for the basketball team and is Razorback quarterback Ryan Mallett heading to the NFL draft or not?

UA head coach Bobby Petrino – whose team practiced Saturday morning as it continues to prepare for its Jan. 2 Liberty Bowl game with East Carolina – was asked if he has had any discussions with Mallett about the latter.

"There has been some, but the main thing we are trying to do is concentrate and focus on the bowl game," Petrino said. "But certainly there has been some dialogue. We are preparing for the bowl game and we need to go win the bowl game and all our reps will be that he is coming back. We are getting focused on going and beating East Carolina."

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If Mallett does return, he will likely be getting chased by current true freshman Colton Nash in practice next season instead of throwing passes to him or watching the Razorbacks run behind him.

Nash (6-6, 261) came in as a defensive end, but moved to tight end because of injuries.

"I want him back on defense," Petrino said. "That is what we brought him in for. Unfortunately we had the injury with Chris Gragg in preseason and Colton came over. He did a nice job for us. He was very physical in run blocking and he will play tight end in the bowl game. We are getting him some extra work – when we keep the young guys out – at defensive end there. He can really rush the passer. He has good instincts. That is the position he likes the best. So he'll go back to that position at the end of the season."

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Arkansas freshman cornerback David Gordon has had one surgery already and will have another one in the near future.

The first one was on a Lisfranc injury in his foot, the upcoming one on his shoulder.

"David is doing good," Petrino said. "He had a pin put in his foot and he is doing well. He is also going to have to have his shoulder worked on when he gets off crutches. He has got some things to do in the off-season to be able to get healthy.

"It is unfortunate because he really wanted to run track," Petrino added. "He would have done a nice job for the track team. We had that coming in – he was going to play football and run track. He will miss the track season.

"I don't know how much of spring ball he will be able to do as far as contact, but he will be out there being able to work on technique and footwork and those sort of things," Petrino said.

His foot injury happened during the Troy game.

"It's the Lisfranc deal in your foot where you get knocked over backward and it overextends and you get some separation in there," Petrino said. "Our doctors did a real nice job in making the decision on whether you let it heal. That is always a challenge, whether you let it heal or go in and do the operation. They made the decision to go in and put the pin in, which will ensure that it heals correctly."

New Orleans Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey suffered the same injury per Petrino.

"Probably the most famous guy that had it is was the guy that plays tight end for the Saints now. Shockey – when he was with the Giants – he had the exact same injury and they went in and put a pin in it. We make sure we go and contact other people who have had that. He is probably the one I know the best."

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While Razorback offensive linemen Mitch Petrun was deservedly rewarded with first-team All-SEC honors, Petrino admitted he was surprised that sophomore wide out Greg Childs did not.

Childs had 45 catches for 872 yards and 7 touchdowns on the season.

"I was surprised at it," Petrino said. "I think Greg has had a very, very good year for us. He gave guys a match-up problem. You certainly saw as the year went on when he was one-on-one, the other teams knew it, identified it and take him away. When you have that much respect for the defensive staffs, you would think he would make something. When you have that many coaches voting and the way you do it – you don't get together and do as a group face to face – there is always going to be somebody left out."

Petrino noted that Petrus certainly deserved his acclaim.

"He had a great year for us," Petrino said. "I couldn't be more proud of Mitch. Not being able to play last year, we were all upset and down about it. He was. He matured tremendously in the season that he had to sit out. He has done an excellent job in class. He is a guy that we relied on for toughness. We ran the ball behind him, he usually pass pro(tecte)d man-to-man all the time against the best inside defensive rush guy for us.

"He is supposed to get his degree at the end of this week which is a great thing," Petrino added.

Petrus is rated as the Razorbacks' best senior prospect for the NFL draft – possibly going as high as the third or fourth round.

"I think he will be (draftd) for sure," Petrino said. "The scouts really like him – his strength and his ability to get out and run and the effort that he plays with. He is a good technician. I would be very, very surprised if he doesn't get drafted somewhere."

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Arkansas senior tackle Malcolm Sheppard is certainly likely to get a shot at playing in the NFL as well.

"Malcolm had a good year for us," Petrino said. "In the two years I have been here, he has been a pleasure to coach because he comes to work every day and gives you the best effort. It is real important to him. He has a great motor and has spent a lot of time really trying to learn and understand the position and has improved on knowing what the offense is doing also. His ability to understand offensive line schemes – really I thought he took a huge step from a year ago so he knows the type of run plays, high hat and low hat for when to rush the passer, when to play the run. He just plays with so much effort and has a smile on his face every day. He is one of those guys you just love to coach."

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Arkansas walk-on Seth Ambrust has been nominated for the Rudy Award, named for former Notre Dame walk on Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger.

The nominees demonstrate exemplary character, courage, contribution and commitment as members of their collegiate football teams.

"Seth has been awesome all year long," Petrino said. "He has done a nice job. He has been very productive. He has done a nice job and been very productive. He's on our kickoff return team, our kickoff cover team and our punt block team. He has had a lot of production. You can't say enough about him. He comes to practice hard every day and goes out and performs in games and makes plays.

"He is a guy a year ago that came in and talked to me about maybe transferring to a lower division," Petrino added. "I encouraged him to stay, but also told him I would help him if that was the decision that he made. I am very, very happy that he made the decision to come back. I think he is a 3.9 student. He adds a lot to this football team."

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