FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas quarterbacks coach Roy Wittke said the battle for the starting spot under…
Jones Remains Questionable
The seventh-year coach said Jones remains questionable for Saturday's home game against No. 10 Georgia, but added the senior continued to improve after two full days of treatment. Jones spent the first part of practice in the training room then watched redshirt freshman Robert Johnson take snaps with the first-team offense.
"Matt is feeling better," Nutt said. "He's been getting treatment about two to three times a day. He rode the bicycle during the first 30 minutes of practice. He got treatment and then came back out for team (drills) just to watch.
"I think he continues to improve and can hopefully do a little bit (today) and then for sure Thursday."
The Razorbacks intend to get Jones involved in light work this afternoon and will continue to gauge his progress on a day-to-day basis. Jones leads the Southeastern Conference in total offense (274.3) and has never missed a game due to injury.
But Arkansas would lean on Johnson if Jones were unable to play. The Waco, Texas native has played in three games, completing 8 of 11 passes for 162 yards and 3 touchdowns without an interception. Johnson was 2 of 2 for 20 yards and a touchdown at Auburn last Saturday and position coach Roy Wittke said the Hogs have confidence in their backup.
"He's a competitor," Wittke said. "He's a young man that wants to do whatever he can to help the football team. He's excited about the opportunity. He's excited about the challenge and wants to prepare any way possible to make a contribution and have a positive impact Saturday night."
Nutt loves the way Johnson handles the huddle and has made the most of his time on the field this season. He said Johnson threw the ball well Tuesday and made good decisions throughout the workout.
Senior tailback DeCori Birmingham said the Hogs are comfortable with Johnson, who worked with the first-team offense throughout spring practices. Birmingham said Johnson understands his role as Arkansas' backup and will be ready to step in if Jones can't play.
However, Birmingham expects to see Jones in the huddle Saturday night.
"You can't keep Matt off the field," Birmingham said. "He wants to play and he's gonna play. You can look forward to seeing him on the field."
The Razorbacks were without starting left tackle Tony Ugoh Tuesday afternoon because the junior was trying to pass a kidney stone. But Arkansas believes the 6-foot-5, 291-pounder can return to the practice field in the next two days.
"When it rains it pours," Nutt said. "That's painful from what people have told me."
The Hogs lost starter Zac Tubbs two weeks ago to a broken ankle, leaving redshirt freshmen Nate Garner and Matt Gilbow as the only tackles on the field Tuesday. Position coach Mike Markuson slid backup guard Robert Felton to first-team left tackle and said the redshirt freshman played there in high school.
"It's one of those things," Markuson said about Arkansas' bad luck. "We've seen it happen before. It's one of those years. When things like that happen, you've got no control over that. Hopefully (Ugoh will) be back."
Arkansas also practiced without starting cornerback Michael Coe, who is questionable for Saturday's game with a deep thigh bruise. True freshman Michael Grant worked with the first-team and would likely start in Coe's place.
Back with Starters
Free safety Vickiel Vaughn rejoined the first-team Tuesday in place of sophomore Randy Kelly, who started against the Tigers. Vaughn was bumped from the lineup after playing poorly during Arkansas' 45-30 loss at Florida on Oct. 2.
But the junior responded with his best game of the season at Auburn.
Vaughn was second on the team with nine tackles, recovered a fumble and recorded his first interception. Vaughn's 40-yard return set up Arkansas' final touchdown of the day in the fourth quarter.
"I felt that I did better than I've done in the past," Vaughn said. "It's just, more or less, a determination within myself that I had to take my game to another level and play up to the ability I've been blessed with."
Sophomore defensive tackle Jeremy Harrell also reclaimed his spot with the first-team defense Tuesday. Harrell was replaced by senior Titus Peebles in the starting lineup against Auburn.
True freshman Peyton Hillis participated in his second practice after missing two weeks with a lower back injury. Nutt said the Razorbacks will be cautious with the Conway native and X-ray his back this week.
Hillis said Sunday he was giving himself a 50-50 shot of playing against Georgia.
But Nutt said the Razorbacks don't want to rush him back too soon.
"It's hard because two weeks ago the guy couldn't walk," Nutt said. "You X-rayed him and he had three broken bones. So we're going to have to do an X-ray again to see exactly. The worst thing you can do is put him back on the field too quick.
"We've got to be real careful there and make sure the doctors OK him and he is 100 percent."
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