Coach Bielema's Post Spring Press Event
I was excited after the game. I got a chance later to watch the film and visit with my staff. It was great to see that record-setting crowd and how guys play when the bullets are flying. On the offensive side of the ball, I liked that we were pretty clean. We had a couple penalties, but for us to play the way we did with where we were at, and it coming full circle, was really, really good. The guys lined up and did what we were supposed to do. We didn't have any turnovers fumbling the ball. I was very happy with how we respected the football in every way possible. It's really a group that's grown in how we want to run the football, offensive line, tight ends, fullbacks, using all of those guys together. I'm particularly excited about that. On defense, the linebackers really came on strong here as of late and did a couple nice things that they hadn't necessarily been doing all spring and flashed for sure. The biggest thing I was really excited about was the way we kicked the football. Not just field goals and PATs, but how we struck the ball in the punt game and covered it as well. We have a two deep, and that's an evolution from the first practice to where we are today. We have some other guys, such as some incoming freshmen, that could get in the two deep early on as well. Other than that, everything is pretty upbeat."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on Arkansas' holder) - "He (Matt Emrich) is actually a walk-on, a snapper that joined us in January. (Kicker) Zach (Hocker) has felt good about him all the way through. Obviously he was really good on Saturday."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on QB-Brandon Allen) - "Brandon Allen, from the first week to the game on Saturday, made progress all the way along. The last two weeks have been exceptional. Brandon Mitchell does a lot of good things as well. The one thing that we can't do is we can't turn the football over. We can't create negative plays on our own, and I think Brandon Allen did a better job of that and has progress in a way to put him in that position."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on progression through spring practice) - "Is there anything I would have done different? I'm sure there are some things along the way. Nothing glaringly jumps out. To me, there are four major parts of your program. There is winter conditioning, spring ball, summer conditioning, and how you handle the fall. We've been through the winter conditioning program. We've gone through spring ball. I wouldn't go back and change anything there. There are a couple guys that we need to bring along in the development area, just putting on weight. We need to get our game plan together on those guys. I really liked the way we handled spring practice and the attitude that our kids approached it with."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (if QB-Brandon Mitchell could be utilized in different roles) - "The players all visit with their coaches today and tomorrow. I wanted to set aside Monday and Tuesday so that they don't have any obligations with us from a meetings standpoint. I wanted it so they could sit down with their position coach and get together on where they are on the depth chart, where they are academically, socially. Starting Wednesday I'll start to meet with every player in our program, just on a case-by-case basis and talk about what we can do to make their role better. I'm a big believer that everyone on this team has a role. I don't care if you are the second-string quarterback or the second-string snapper or middle linebacker. Whatever that role is, you need to know where it's going to be. With Brandon Mitchell at quarterback, he definitely has some special gifts that we can use. If there's another role, another position we can use him at, we'll work together on that."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on expectations) - "It's a football team that just went 4-8, a team that had lost a head coach prior to the season ever starting, then an interim coach that was on his way out the door. I don't think there were a lot of people that were talking about Arkansas football. That is what I meant by that underdog role. Going into fall, it reminds me a lot of when I took over at Wisconsin. Now, we finished that season 12-1, but we started the season ranked like 65th or 68th in the country because everybody thought we lost a lot of good players and had a new coach that they didn't know a lot about. That same thing now, we are playing in not just the best conference but the best division in college football. I don't think a lot of people have their eyes on Arkansas right now. That's a position that we really like."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on the team) - "The talent, we haven't played the schedule yet, but it's kind of a different thing. Our three linebackers that started the game on Saturday, none of them have starting experience. It's guys that are unknown to the conference and to our team. They really played well throughout the course of the spring. If I just looked at it across the board, I think our defensive line is an area of strength. You have two defensive ends in Trey Flowers and Chris Smith that I think are exceptional players. I've been in some places where you would have one good defensive end, and the other one not as good, and teams would figure that out pretty quickly where to run the football at. Our inside balance is good. Our group of defensive tackles is very gifted, as well as the depth there. I've been intrigued with how our two safeties, Rohan Gaines and Eric Bennett, have played and they communicate very well. We did notice when we lost Tevin Mitchell that first play on Saturday - he's a good player. When you lose someone of significance like that, it really affected us in corner play. That will be an area that we continue to build and develop. Offensively, I've been very impressed with (running backs) Jonathan Williams and Kody Walker. Nate Holmes has his own set of gifts. He's not the same type of runner, but he definitely has a role. He didn't play in the first half because we wanted to get him right academically, but I'm really excited about that running back group. We have two freshmen coming in that I think can really help as well."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on assistants using evaluation days in recruiting) - "They'll start Tuesday. By NCAA rules you are allowed 168 days. For the rest of this month we won't go out any further than that Friday before Memorial Day weekend. We'll use the next five weeks as a window to get better and we'll come and revamp and get a hold on what we are recruiting wise and we'll push out the last three weeks."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on LB-A.J. Turner) - "A.J. had a good spring. Unfortunately, he came in with a bad wrist and then broke his wrist the fourth week of winter conditioning. That's going to take a bit of time to heal, that's why he was in the split. A.J. unfortunately also lost his grandfather last week as well. I brought him in and just explained to him that there were a lot of things that have been taking hits at him. There were the injuries, and then he lost the grandparent. I think the transition hasn't been a bed of roses for him because we wanted to hold him to a bit higher accountability. He came in and he hasn't left. I think that's a great statement on his behalf. He's got a lot of talent and a lot of upside that I'm excited to tap in to."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on TE-Mitchell Loewen) - "Mitchell was doing great. He unfortunately rolled his ankle three weeks out. We didn't even think we'd get him out there. He's been the nice surprise. A walk-on from Hawai'i, I don't even know how he got out here. It's worked out very well for him. He's a kid that with the packages we run the role will continue to increase for him. I've also been very impressed with Austin Tate. Those two guys together can be a formidable pair. Then you bring in a guy like (Jeremy) Sprinkle, a guy that's more of an athlete guy. He doesn't have enough lead in his tail now, but he's a guy we can use more on the move and do some nice things with him. (Alex) Voelzke is another walk-on that's been very impressive in the spring drills. To have a position that wasn't really recruited or manned up, we actually have a bit of depth there, and it's nice."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on OT-Grady Ollison and OG-Brey Cook) - "Brey, we could have kept him at tackle, but ideally I think he's built and wired to be more of an inside player. If he was playing tackle and this was his last year, the first thing the NFL would say is let's move him to guard. Rather than wait, we thought we'd do it. He's gotten better. It's a different game inside. For pass set, you usually have help, you don't have the edge. All the guys I've been around that have been great players on the inside have been built more like Brey, very athletic. He's got enough pop. Then just to get Grady in the mix, he has a lot of potential. He doesn't have the size we need yet but does have the athleticism. We had a day where we put the offensive players over on defense and the defensive players over on offense. Now, he's played defense in the past. Some of the drills we had them do that day, you can see how athletic he is compared to the rest of those linemen."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on the chemistry of the offensive line, even with OT-David Hurd out) - "Obviously, we never want to see anyone hurt. With Hurd being down, it gave us a chance to get Austin Beck in there quite a bit. He had a big jump the last few weeks. He's got the length that you want, he definitely has the willpower. That proved to us as coaches that we can put someone else in there with little to no issues in the transition. That's the reason we play ones against ones. As I looked around the world of college football these past two weekends, you see how teams do it. They draft teams, but I wanted our guys to play together. I wanted our d-line to play together, to develop that chemistry. That's exactly what the goal was and I think it's worked very, very well."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on OG-Johnathan McClure) - "He has his ups and downs. Great kid, he's thick. It's very important to him. He used to weigh over 400 pounds and trimmed his weight down to 325, 330. All those junior college kids go through a bit of an adjustment walking into a program and hearing language and verbage for the first time. I could see him being a valuable guy for us depth wise. I don't know if he will bust into that starting lineup, but he can be a great depth guy."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on LB-Martrell Spaight) - "One thing you saw on film was that he was a very active player. He had a bunch of tackles, very instinctive. He's got the ability to play all three positions ideally. You probably want to play him at the Sam or the Will. He's a productive player, a very serious and conscientious young man. The biggest statement that Martell made to me is, he could have left that junior college and played at several different schools. But to play in the SEC and more importantly to play at Arkansas, he took one more class because he wanted to be a Razorback, and that said a lot to me."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on CB-Jared Collins) - "Collins had a very nice scrimmage. He took that role about three weeks ago. He made a couple nice plays on the field, pass breakups. The great thing about him is that he's a really great player. The bad news about him is that there is not a lot of him. He only weighs about 165 pounds, and he needs to be a lot bigger than that to play in the SEC. He needs a big summer, and we need to do that. Will Hines, I can't go out and recruit a corner that is physically like him. He's tall and long. He's got enough foot speed. He's got to play smart and he has to play aggressive. He has to play big. Right now he doesn't play big. He's backing away from things and playing a little soft on certain looks. To his credit, he was a little banged up and didn't want to say it. He had an issue with his groin that bothered him more than he was letting on. I think the upside for him is great. Between him, Carroll Washington, and Tevin Mitchel, that's four guys that have a chance to play here."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on welcome from fans) - "It's been awesome. I don't know if it's the whole Hog background or what. Tonight we're going to Pine Bluff. I don't know where all these cities are, what direction we are going because we are flying by plane. It's been great. I though the neatest thing was Saturday over in the end zone when we had 600 people that were current players and their families. To meet them all and learn more about them was absolutely awesome. It's always easy to be liked when you are undefeated though. We'll continue to work and do what we do. What has also been overwhelming is when we have recruits and their parents in, how genuine the people are when they visit here. You can't fake that, and you can't put a price tag on the worth of that."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on if K-Zach Hocker will kick and punt in the fall) - "Right now he is (the punter). We are going to have (Sam Irwin) Hill that's going to come in, a junior college kid, and a couple of other guys that are in that role. But he hit the ball really good from a punt standpoint. One of the things I'm always concerned about with the specialist is them outkicking their leg; getting too many reps in. We are going to have to make sure. I've never had a guy handle all kick responsibilities, kicker and punter. I've seen it done. One of my main things will be to talk to a couple of coaches that have had that before, and get some insight on how much volume they can have."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on the offense and defense being very basic in the spring game) - "It was what you are going to see in the fall. We like the power run game. There are a lot of things we didn't run offensively. Defensively I was trying to limit Coach Ash and the pressures he could bring, although he didn't obey my rules on that one either. He brought a few more pressures than I would have liked. It was mainly just one and two pressure looks. Those were pretty easy to pick up. In a way though I made a comment to our coaches that we had a number of players that played their best scrimmage. A lot of them would say that the limited package really helped them. I said, 'Exactly. That's my point.' I would rather be great at a few things than be mediocre at a bunch of things. I say that all the time to my coaches. It's human nature. They have too many things. I have told the offensive and defensive coaches all along that you have to scale back their packages. I want to be great at it. That is a hard concept to get through sometimes."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on his staff that he brought in) - "I have been blown away with how well this staff has worked. I knew that I brought the coaches from Wisconsin that I wanted to bring with me and establish myself down here. I didn't want to do that. I could have brought everybody with me. I wanted some influences from other areas. Defensively I knew that I wanted to bring Chris (Ash) and Charlie (Partridge) for sure. I knew that I wanted to bring my strength coach (Ben Herbert) and my director of operations (Mark Taurisani). I knew that I wanted that to exist. I did talk to my offensive coaches, not my OC, about joining us here. They had other opportunities going and other positive things. To get this group together, they are a really good group of guys. They enjoy the game and they enjoy being around our kids. I think that rubs off on them. One of the biggest things that we try to stress during the last couple weeks is really letting our players' personalities come out a little bit and be a little fun, be engaging. We wanted to have a little bit of attitude and energy on the field. That has slowly come out and it really showed on Saturday"
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on the kick return and punt return game) - "We had kick return and punt return going every day. During practice we kind of penciled into those roles. I know that there are a couple guys here that have had experience doing that. Really, in the fall, it is going to come down to who catches the ball really well. In our kickoff return scheme we will have two guys back there, a primary and an off returner. The primary returner, you want somebody that can hit it and get it. The kickoff return is one guy running and 10 men blocking. If you have success, it's a touchdown. It's a really unique play. On punt return the biggest thing is to see who has the confidence to catch it back there. In today's world with the rugby kicks and the different styles of things that you get in the punt game, you really have to have a guy back there that you trust with everything that the ball is."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on the depth chart being the same in the fall) - "Anytime you have a group of freshman coming in, you don't know what they are going to bring. There are going to be a number of guys that make big jumps in the out of season. I look at (linebackers) A.J. Turner and Otha Peters, two guys that played a lot of football a year ago that are now second string just because the other guys just got the defense a little bit better. I think they are both good players. They can make a big jump if that light bulb comes on. I look around and there isn't anybody. A lot of teams held players out Saturday and didn't let them participate. I knew on offense that there would be a point that we need Travis (Swanson) out and Kiero (Small) out because those guys have shown me that they can play winning football. But I want them to play. I wanted them to rep. They need to get better on defense. Really the only guy that I afforded the only option to get out of the scrimmage was Chris Smith because he was a little bit sick. I didn't want him to get in there and be off. He wanted to play in that first quarter and he showed why, he loves to compete. There is positions that I would say are pretty locked up but there are positions I'd say that are wide open."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on what the players do now) - "By NCAA rule we have to give them a certain number of days that are discretionary off. By NCAA rules you have to set those up. Those will be our finals week and the next three weeks after that. That will put us in a position to come back in June. I tell players all the time that the more overtime you put in, the better off you are going to be. So if they want to volunteer, they have lifting this week on Wednesday and Friday. If they want to come in and lift today or tomorrow, I know that Ben Herbert is in there to put them to work and help them out. We have four non-conference opponents hat we start the season with that it would be great to get a jump on. Obviously we open up league play with Texas A&M. There is a lot of film to be watched now. One of the things that I love and I know our defensive coaches in particular and (offensive coordinator) Jim Chaney does this, is give the guys some pro cut-ups. Some teams that we are trying to do the same concepts. If you see an NFL guy doing it, you tend to buy into it a little bit better, or want to be engaged with it. A lot of this time (players) are on their own though. I always tell the guys to be careful and be cautious. A little bit warmer weather and a little bit more free time, that is when you read about the guys in the headlines in ways that we don't want to be represented. We just have to constantly be on them and remind them to make great choices in that department."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on feeling settled in) - "We are in a house but the house is still boxes. I haven't unpacked one box and I have been told and informed that I am not going to. I am being a good husband and staying away from that scenario. I think the more and more comfort we are getting is the standard way of doing things. We are getting back to a little bit of a rhythm and a standard mode of operation. I think all of my coach's families are here except for coach (Charlie) Partridge's. His wife was in here this weekend but she is coming down here with their two kids after the school year is over. As the families have been around a little more we are getting more comfortable. Just to be around our players has been the biggest thing. You know those first two months I was literally taking a media guide on the plane, when I was traveling, and trying to memorize faces and names. To know your entire roster and being able to say something to them by name is a big deal."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on figuring out the offensive philosophy) - "Coach (Jim) Chaney and I have said to our offensive and defensive staffs is that I wanted to get into spring ball and find out who our players were. Certain guys are going to be able to do things very, very well and they are not going to be great at others. Our offense always has got to be a little bit of give and take with what we really want to do and what our players can do best. It is obvious that we have a couple of running backs that can run a powerful running game but if Nate (Holmes) is in there it really doesn't do you a lot of good to go off-tackle with him. It is just not his game. As your quarterback shows you certain things, you can build around that as well. The more comfortable we got with Brandon Allen, the more we thought we could do certain things and the more we would have to restrict other areas. Coach Chaney is always thinking from a philosophy of trying to give his quarterback a package of things to group together. When you get to know your player, it gets a little easier to coach him."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on who will be returning kickoffs) - "We have to limit it because they all think they can be back there. But Demetrious Wilson. Keon Hatcher was back there. Nate Holmes. There are a couple guys, Tiquention Coleman. Javontee Herndon was back there, mainly our wide receivers and defensive backs. But, you know what, my leading kick returner at Wisconsin was a linebacker, so if they can catch it and be physical, I don't care what position they play, I just want them to catch it and secure it."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on who will return punts) - "It is the same group on both sides. Coach (Michael) Smith is going to handle that. He had a lot of success in the return game at Kansas State. I think the thing there is that the punt returner is a little different. You are making unprotected catches, and you have to have a great amount of faith in catching the ball."
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema (on strength and conditioning during the summer) - "It is the same thing we did in the beginning. Coach (Ben) Herbert has done a big sell job on me on this one. If your body is given an eight-week window to change, it will change. With development and nutrition, we tried to give them eight weeks on the front end before we started spring ball and now we will go into another eight weeks into the summer. This is the time when our guys grow as much as anything. In their entire careers, they grow more in the summer, physically, mentally and comradely. They are doing drills and running seven-on-seven on their own. Coaches can't be there by NCAA rules so they really have to take that leadership role. That is when some of those players take a big jump in their leadership roles."
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