Smith: Hogs Get Extra Tuesday

John L. Smith

Arkansas put the open date weekend to good use with an "extra Tuesday" ahead of Saturday's SEC test with Ole Miss. John L. Smith said running back Dennis Johnson has blossomed.

Arkansas head coach John L. Smith said the Hogs are ahead of schedule this week going into the Ole Miss game at 11:21 a.m. Saturday. He said it's because of an extra Tuesday during the week.

That was the last nugget from his Monday afternoon media briefing. Smith said the Hogs went to the practice field for a Sunday evening practice that equated to "an extra Tuesday." Smith said it was a high energy workout, more than the usual Sunday when it's just some conditioning.

"We put in time, a legit practice," Smith said of the Sunday workout. "Usually, on Sunday night, we just do some running, to get the soreness out. This was an extra Tuesday."

The Hogs are coming off an open weekend that coaches used for recruiting trips and evaluations of prospects. The Hogs had won two straight to pull even at 2-2 in SEC play ahead of this week's game in Little Rock against 1-2 Ole Miss. The Rebels are also coming off an open week.

"We've had a good week," Smith said of the bye week. "We practiced yesterday and we'll be off today. We've had high energy. It's been a good week of practice. It's been good to get the extra time."

Smith said it will be needed to cope with a high powered Ole Miss offense.

"Ole Miss is very good on offense, very athletic, like every year," Smith said. "They are great at speeding up the game. They make you defend the option."

The Hogs have also used the open week to heal. Smith said it's as healthy as the team has been this season. Tight end Chris Gragg, out since a deep leg bruise against Rutgers, continues to improve.

"Gragg is back, getting more reps constantly," Smith said. "The knee has a tendency to get sore, as it will. But he's fine. We expect him to get more each day."

Smith said running back Ronnie Wingo (shoulder) and Dede Jones (knees) are improved after sitting out the 49-7 victory over Kentucky.

"We are as healthy as we can be," Smith said. "We need a couple more days of preparation, but I like our energy. We have a lot more confidence. Our energy has always been good."

Winning breeds confidence. He said it's obvious that practice have improved with the last two victories.

"I think they are having more fun at practice," Smith said. "I think what happened to them (in the four-game losing streak) had us all shocked to a degree. You never go into a game expecting to lose. Then when you have guys go down like they did (to injuries), it took us time to adjust. At one point, we had a whole different secondary and linebacker crew. It takes awhile to get assignments and techniques down."

Smith praised the running back crew. He said Dennis Johnson has developed into a vocal practice leader and Knile Davis is coming off a fine week of practice, too.

"The running backs are the best we've been all year," he said. "It's getting better. Knile has gone to the practice field and done well. I like what he's been doing. Dennis has blossomed, what he's done at practice is very promising. We've always known he had it in him. But he likes it, he's cherishing it, and yeah, it's like come get on my back."

Smith said Johnson's attitude at practice jumped after a visit with the head coach following the loss to Louisiana-Monroe.

"We had a little talk," Smith said. "It was after some things in Little Rock. We sat down and talked. Dennis, without a doubt, listened and tried to do what we asked."

Smith was asked about the "atmosphere" around the team after the last two victories. Was their some relief?

"I don't know if it was a sense of relief," he said. "It was more like, it's back the way it should be."

Is there a belief that a bowl game is a legitimate goal?

"I think it's more like they enjoy playing the game," he said. "They know there is that carrot of a bowl game. But I think it's more like they enjoy going to the field every single day and showing they are a good team."

The Rebels do present some challenges for a young, changing defense. It's assignment football since Ole Miss relies on the option with sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace.

"It's a downhill option," Smith said. "The quarterback does a great job of managing the game. He's not a (Johnny) Manziel with that kind of speed. But he's capable. He doesn't put it anybody's hands but the right people. I really like the running back and the skill of the receivers.

"The option makes us rely on our assignments. We have to learn who has the quarterback, the dive back. It can't be just see the ball, get the ball." Recommended Stories

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