FAYETTEVILLE -- Taiwan Johnson's performance in Saturday's scrimmage earned the redshirt junior a promotion to first-team nose guard as part of a minor shuffle on Arkansas' defensive front.
DeMarcus Hodge, also a junior, has moved from starting nose guard to defensive tackle behind Darius Philon.
"We're trying to get our best four guys on the field, our best four play-makers," defensive line coach Rory Segrest said.
Defensive coordinator Robb Smith said he likes Johnson's quickness over the ball.
"The quicker you are, the closer to the ball you are, the better off you are," Smith said.
Johnson, 6-3, 262 pounds, is smaller than the typical SEC nose guard. Hodge is 6-1, 335 pounds.
"I'm a smaller guy weight-wise, but I have the heart," Johnson said. "I have the grit, and I'm going to give it all I got to make sure I get my job done for my team."
Johnson, who played in three games last season, said he appreciates the opportunity to work with the starters.
"Right now, all it's telling me is I have an opportunity and I should take advantage of it," he said.
Freshman Bijhon Jackson, who sat out Saturday's scrimmage with a sprained ankle, is second at nose guard.
Four players who missed Saturday's scrimmage are expected to return to practice today.
Cornerback Tevin Mitchel (shoulder), tailback Alex Collins (hip), receiver Jojo Robinson (hamstring) and defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson (ankle) are expected to suit up.
Tight end AJ Derby (bruised knee) and cornerback Jared Collins (dislocated finger) played through injuries in the scrimmage.
Freshman cornerback Santos Ramirez, who was injured Friday, was wearing a walking boot on his left foot.
Freshman fullback Tyler Colquitt (concussion) was held out of the scrimmage.
Grady Ollison has another new position, moving from offensive to defensive tackle after the first week of practice.
Ollison began his Arkansas career at defensive end. He moved to offensive tackle, fullback, guard, tight end, back to tackle and guard.
Leg injuries impacted Ollison's playing time last season after he started the first five games.
"I'm just really now getting back on my feet, honestly, and this summer getting back to 100 percent," Ollison said. "I wasn't even healthy in spring ball. Getting back to 100 percent, I feel like myself again."
Ollison was asked if he should have stayed on defense when he came to Arkansas.
"I feel like I'm back home," he said. "I'll leave it at that."
Use the force
Bret Bielema praised left guard Luke Charpentier and center Mitch Smothers for having what was probably their best scrimmage performances Saturday.
"We played with a lot of maturity on the line," Charpentier said. "We were seeing a lot of things. We were just playing with confidence."
Cornerback Tevin Mitchel, who has 24 career starts, has been cleared for contact in practice this week. He wore a green no-contact jersey last week and sat out the scrimmage as he completed his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery.
"It's been a long four months going through my rehab, and I finally get to get back on the field and work out with the guys and get out of that green jersey," Mitchel said. "I'm excited."
Tailback Jonathan Williams and receiver Keon Hatcher turned in 4.0 grade-point averages over the summer, two of the many football players touted by Bret Bielema for giving the program an outstanding academic semester.
Williams' straight A's impressed Bielema.
"Those weren't pottery classes," he said.
Bielema said football players made 92 A's and 89 B's among they 260 total classes over the summer.
Freshman linebacker Randy Ramsey said he didn't expect to perform as well as he did in Saturday's scrimmage, when he had 6 tackles -- including 3 for 22 yards in losses -- and 1 fumble recovery as a second-teamer.
"I was kind of shocked," he said. "It was a big confidence boost for me."
Ramsey had two sacks, drawing his coaches' praise
"They liked the way I came off the edge fast," he said. "It's hard to block a guy who can come off the edge real fast, so they like that aspect of my game."
Sports on 08/11/2014
Print Headline: Johnson has nose for spot