Head Coach Bret Bielema (opening statement) - ""Thank you for coming today. Obviously, a lot of hard work went into today from all of our assistants and you will get a chance to talk to them afterword. One thing that strikes me right away about this recruiting class is as I assembled my staff, we are naturally over the next couple of weeks going to set ourselves into geographic areas, but with a staff in transition like we were, a head coach all the way through to the last hire. We kind of just built this recruiting class off of past relationships, not only with recruits but with high school coaches throughout the country. So it was really a culmination of a lot of different scenarios and a lot of different stories working together to get to where we are.
"I really give a lot of credit to those guys like Chris Hauser our recruiting coordinator and one of the first guys I brought with me and we were able to lay out a plan that was adjusting almost every minute of every day. It was really a unique flow that I thought was important to establish what we want in a recruit in our first class.
"First and foremost, you have to be an athlete that will fit here in Arkansas, no matter where you are coming from. I believe there are eight players from the state of Arkansas, a total of 22, could grow by one within the next 24 hours. I wanted those players to fit what Arkansas is, and it's really important to me. They have to believe in the family. If I am going to get them here and talk about the Arkansas football family, I didn't want them to not know any idea of what that meant. I don't care what kind of family background they came from, I need them to have a home, I need them to have something that they can count on and believe in. There are one-parent homes, two-parent homes, grand-parent homes, foster-care homes, players that have different arrangements but they all have to have a belief in family. I though was very very important.
"They have to love football, something that they are all going to come here and play. We are going to practice it, we are going to grind it for the entire year so if they don't like football they are not going to be able to fit in here. That is something that our guys are going to have to really believe in and accept. It was a premium to find out their academic history, what they are all about.
"It's natural that good players are going to play good football in year one, but they are going to play their best football in year four and year five. This means they are going to have to go through their entire timeline here, graduate to give them a degree that they are going to have for the rest of their life. I thought that was an important part to establish.
"Now the last thing, and probably the most important, is I want them to believe in winning. I think when you come from a program in the past, which if you begin to accept losing it begins to creep into all areas of your life. If you don't put a premium on winning, you are not going to have a chance, definitely in this conference but also in life. Those five things were pretty important for me to get with our staff and to look for in our players."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on QB-Austin Allen) - "First we have the hometown hero, Austin Allen. He's got a chance to be an exceptional player. He's a very good athlete. He's got great decisions and he has an ability to throw the football in all types of routes and all types of touches on the ball. Here you see a deep ball threat, and throwing it on the money in stride. There is a reason Fayetteville has been very successful, and he is a big part of it. Here is another ball thrown in rhythm on strike. You see him in this play deliver the ball in rhythm. The receivers don't have to make many adjustments. He came here to chase a dream and we are very excited about Austin."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on DE-Tevin Beanum) - "Tevin Beanum is another in-state prospect from Forrest City. The thing I love about Tevin when I saw the film was just his motor and his ability to play hard and play very fast. He is very long and has long arms and good range. He has an ability to lock out and make some plays, run one way and redirect. Here you see another play where he gets to run up the field and redirect the other way, flip his hips and turn around and make the play. The last play is the most intriguing to me. He gets his hand on a player, disengages, gets off and makes a play. The part that high school players oftentimes have a hard time doing is playing with their hands. It comes natural to him."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on S-Alex Brignoni) - "Alex is very exciting. He can probably play a variety of different positions here. Here you see him playing safety where he just gets a good feel for the ball and makes a great decision on the football here and come over and make a very athletic play and turns it across his body and make a pick and is able to advance the ball all the way into the end zone. In the middle of the field he has an opportunity to get engaged and get a feel for it and he goes and takes the ball at the highest point. Again, it's just hard for some kids to do it and he is able to. We will start at the safety position and you may see him grow into the linebacker. Here you see him come and make a play in the open field and gather his feet and throw his head in front and wrap up. He is an exciting player to get to know and we are excited to have him."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on S-De'Andre Coley) - "Coley is one of our additions from Miami, Florida. Coach Randy Shannon brought him to our attention. Miami Northwestern is a great program with a lot of tradition. De'Andre really is an exciting player. Here you see him in the alley routinely making big plays, coming up and putting his head on the ball with no fear. He has great speed. Some of the other players out of his school may be a higher recruit, but this kid was a fit for us. He did a tremendous job in a school that everyone talks very highly of. He is a very athletic kid who is blessed with speed. You see him on the line of scrimmage and he just reads and reacts. He wastes no time and has no hesitation and he delivers a tackle."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on CB-D.J. Dean) - "This is a guy out of East Texas who was one of our biggest priorities. Moving forward we will be able to establish Arkansas football in the state of Texas. It's a very proud program and we already have a prospect at that school for next year. We are excited about building relationships in this area. Here he is at corner where he is going to play for us. You see him come back off the football and read and react with no hesitation. Here you see him as a punt returner. This is a position for us where we didn't really have a punt returner or a kick returner. Here you see him make a decision and he lets the ball bounce, picks it up and now you just see him make some great decisions with the ball in his hands. We will start him off on defense. We will start him immediately working the punt return and kick return game. It's a natural feel for him to get outside leverage and return it down the field for a touchdown. Here he is at quarterback and he runs a little bit of a wildcat package. Here he fakes the pass and comes back in. He is a really unique athlete and he comes back in and makes great decisions. What do good coaches do? Put him on defense. Here is a guy who has a natural ability to do some things that I am really excited about."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on LB-Brooks Ellis) - "Brooks was heavily recruited by anyone in the country. What I love about Brooks is that I know he wants to play here. Long story short his grandfather is a former player. It is in his DNA, and it is part of who he is and I am really excited about what he brings to the table a lot more than what is on the football field. You see him up at the line of scrimmage and he gets in there like good linebackers do and he kind of bounces around and is able to get off and make a play and puts his hand in front and drags his feet and runs the guy down. I mean just natural instinctive linebacker things that you can't coach. Here you see him get up and just make some movement at the line of scrimmage and just get up and attacks when he needs to and gets up and wraps up the play. He makes routine linebacker plays that you need him to do. Here you see him come up on a blitz and he comes through the line of scrimmage chasing a quarterback and he gets him down and makes a big play. I am very excited and I think he will play like at an inside linebacker position."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on RB- Denzell Evans) - "From the beginning I thought it was important to sign at least two running backs in this class, and this one is in the boat and already working for us. The thing that I love about him is that he has good vision. He is great with ball security and he tries to get around. He tries to make the most out of every play. Here you see him have a nice counter and he comes up and accelerates and reads the block. He sees some things that aren't really in front of him. He is a powerful runner. I was shocked and so were the coaches at how thick he was."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on WR-Melvinson Hartfield) - "A guy that came on our radar late was a guy out of Dallas from South Oak Cliff. He was committed to another school and we went in and saw his dad and his family. We made him take a trip that last week and he really didn't want to, but he did anyway. We made it possible for him to get here and now he is committed. He is a very exciting player. He is in the slot here as a wide receiver and he takes a rocket tunnel screen. He makes some people miss and separates himself. We think he is very gifted. We think there is a chance he may run some track for us as well. Here he runs a little jet sweep and he gets around the edge and once he gets his foot in the ground and gets himself going north and south there isn't anyone that is going to grab him, especially on the highlight film. Here you see him playing on defense. Once he gets familiar on offense and gets familiar with the return game, we may see him on defense as well. He is multi-talented and is very raw in his skills at corner, but he is a guy that definitely has some ability to read and react, He has some instinctive cover skills that get you excited about what he can bring to the table."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on TE-Hunter Henry) - "Hunter is a great kid who is part of Arkansas football as his dad played here. He really took the whole process in and committed a while back during the transition and he still came back. I just love the way he approaches family and everything from day one as all of the Arkansas kids did once. He has an ability to lay out and make a play. He is very athletic and gifted. He catches the ball here and is able to make some people miss. I think the thing that is really exciting about him is he can play inline tight end. In the all-star games he played the inline tight end positions and wasted no time adjusting to that. One thing he is not afraid of is contact. We are excited to get him into that."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on P-Sam Irwin-Hill) - "He is our first international player who comes to us from Australia. I Skype'd with his mother yesterday and it was a very entertaining conversation just going international with this recruiting process. Here he is punting the ball with his right foot in a pooch situation. He gets it up in the air and his teammates make a great play, which is something we will try and capitalize on here. Here is a rugby punt to his right and he makes great use of the situation. Here is actually going to his left. He is an ambidextrous punter and we hope to capitalize. He is actually a kicker as well with PATs and field goals. He is a guy that is multi-talented with a great personality. He was very popular on his visit, not just with our players but with his accent he gets a boost with the student body as well."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on OL-Denver Kirkland) - "Again another kid out of Miami, Coach (Randy) Shannon, Booker T. Washington another great program with a lot of history. When I saw Denver on film I was very impressed with his abilities and size. He is a great kid. Mom has raised an unbelievable kid. It was a real heavy recruiting battle that went down to the end and he chose us. He is a kid that I think is going to come on and impact us right away. He is really big, so some of these guys he is engaging really don't have a chance and if he gets locked on to you, then you are in trouble. Here you see he gets locked on to a kid and pushes him to the next level, gives him a little push in the back, we encourage that. Here you see again he gets into another guy, makes people kind of surrender. One of the things that really intrigues us, you see here he is playing tackle and he really can play all four positions up front center, both guards and both tackles."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on OL-Reeve Koehler) - "This was the best visit of the recruiting season in Honolulu, Hawaii. We went from Honolulu where it was 84 degrees to Denver where it was -8 degrees. I'm excited for two things. One, I think he is a great football player. You will see him line up here at guard. He is very, very wide, very thick and powerful. Two, I hope it will open up some inroads into Hawaii. The connection of where he is to Arkansas and once you get a kid from there they tend to send kids like they like in that same direction. Here you see him lining up at right guard. Reeve is very, very thick as you can see. Those britches look like they are in pain. He get on to the guy, flips those hips, and he finishes every play. Here is another kind of almost the same type of look, see him get inside leverage and get his hands on the guy and is able to finish him up through the next level. Then here again what you are going to see is a little bit of ability to kind of stay after someone up field. That guy can find out what 330 pounds of Hawaiian on top of you feels like."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on DT-Ke'Tyrus Marks) - "KT is out of Suncoast. The last guy I recruited out of Suncoast was a guy by the name of Devin Hester. KT is not as fast, but hopefully is just as good of a player. He is very, very gifted and very powerful. He does a lot of quick movements with his hands and Coach (Charlie) Partridge found him and he was a little bit under recruited and got heavily recruited there at the end. He has an ability to use his hands and flip his hips then use his speed to get up field. We need to work on his celebrations, he is very animated, and we don't need any penalties here in the SEC. As you can see he can move. He is very quick and gets his hat in front. Very athletic, very explosive. I think this is just the beginning of how good he can be. He has one of those knacks as a defensive tackle; I wasn't one of them, but to get to the ball off the tackle. And get to the backfield in a hurry."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on S-Korliss Marshall) - "From Osceola, another Arkansas kid and you can see he does a variety of different things. At receiver he just catches the ball outside of his right shoulder and right over the shoulder. You see how well he can move with the ball in his hands and just do some special things with the football. We are going to start him off at safety and probably a variety of other positions. Here you will see him make an outside move and come around that left edge and then accelerate down the boundary. He is a very, very good player and I believe the ceiling is off the charts."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on QB-Damon Mitchell) - "Plays quarterback, a guy that we recruited and took a visit to Wisconsin while I was up there. He came here as well and this last weekend he really fell in love with the place. Great kid here you will see him playing quarterback. He has great athletic ability, here you will see him running left and throws the ball right handed. He does a great job of converting and making some things happen in the air, but also with his feet. He can throw back over the middle and then here you see him in a 3-1 set. He only played QB really for two years, but a guy we are excited about."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on WR-Drew Morgan) - "Drew is a young man out of Greenwood. I believe he came to camp a couple of years ago. He won a lot of football games and you love that part of it to bring that infections attitude here big time. There is not a more energetic kid in this recruiting class. Drew is very, very into the game and has a competitive nature. Here you see him line up in the slot, just a go route where he out runs everybody. Got to work on the finish, but he really is an explosive guy. He plays with a lot of attitude and a lot of energy. Here he lines up in the slot again, just a little underneath route and then he sticks his foot in the ground and when he is gone no one is going to catch him. He has the ability to change the game. It was hard to find just three plays for him; he is pretty much a non-stop highlight reel. Here you see him lined up in the boundary and the QB just throws it up and you see his ability to adjust to the football. The guy is grabbing him and holding him and he still makes the play, just one of those types of players."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on OL-Dan Skipper) - "He really is 6-10. I know when you say 6-10 a lot of time the guy isn't really 6-10, but he is 6-10. He is very athletic and very mobile. He was committed to Coach (Sam) Pittman at Tennessee before he flipped to come here. When he left from the visit here he was going to visit Ohio State and Ole Miss. He is an engineering major and just an all-around great kid. Here you will see him at left tackle and he will kind of run the kid by but if you keep an eye on him, coach Buck is going to try to hire him as a hurdler here because he just jumps over this guy and makes a play. Extremely athletic and I like this little face shot he gives here too. He weighs 300 pounds and looks like he weighs 275. I think the sky is the limit for him here you will see him double team a guy on the 20-yard line and the play end with him blocking him on the two."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on S-Tiquention Coleman) - "He was committed to me at Wisconsin. We didn't sign a lot of JuCo kids there, but I felt there was a need at safety. We looked all over the country and when I made the switch I was actually hoping he would contact me and he did. I love that he is a contagious personality and infectious and a very serious football player originally form South Carolina. He is the middle safety and you can kind of see what he is made of here. I don't know if I'll let him tackle our running backs because he likes to do this. Very, very compact to the ground and plays low quite a bit, we will get him to use his hands a little bit more here at Arkansas. He is very explosive, fills the gaps and runs the alley very well. Here you see him again high, point and center. Gets the ball on the run and kind of gets a feel for what is going on around him. I think he is a guy that can compete right away here for playing time."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on OL-Johnathan McClure) - "Came from a junior college out of Butler. He played tackle there, but he is going to play guard for us. He is a guy that is going to be improved in a short amount of time here with our strength and condition program, maybe we can get him trimmed up a little bit. He has a chance to give us immediate depth on the o-line. The one thing I like about John is that he reshaped his body. At one point he was like 330 pounds and got all the way down to 300. He is a guy that is really going to benefit from being here in January. I'm excited about John."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on LB-Martell Spaight) -"A guy that we have been looking at, we wanted to sign two junior college linebackers. Coach (Bobby) Allen brought Martrell to me that last weekend and I started watching the film and wanted to know more about him. Come to find out he is from North Little Rock and he is one of Coach Bolding's great players. He was the junior college player of the year in his conference. The thing I love about Martrell is that he wanted to be a Razorback. He had to do some extra things just to be here. You will see the athletic ability that he has, coming up on the line of scrimmage, very explosive. He likes contact, knocks the guy out and picks the ball up and then gets it back. A guy that is multi-talented. Here you see him playing out in a little bit of space. Up to the top of the screen you are going to see him read and react. He detaches the backer and you will see the lineman get run blocked. He will come in and fill the hole. Again, he will bring some heat with him when he comes there. This is an exceptional kid. Mom and dad raised a great kid. I got to be in granddad's house in Little Rock and hopefully that is going to be a pipeline for us into North Little Rock and Little Rock in general for years to come. He is everything that you want. He is truly a special, special kid."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on LB-Myke Tavarres) -"As you get to know Myke, you guys are going to love him. He will give you commentary, more than you will ever want. He is not afraid to talk, but the good thing is that I think he is going to be able to back it up. He had a hat on the other day that resembled a llama. I don't know what it was but it was on his head. You can see him, reads, reacts and comes back underneath to get the ball. He shows some skill here too. He was a, I want to say, a decathlete. He went out in his division and won it, in California, by doing it for the first time ever. Here you see him coming down on the line of scrimmage, he pulls the trigger. His ability to make some explosive plays. He creates a fumble. This next one is a premier example of what I think he can do here. They are going to bring pressure. He has a drop step but he more than makes up for it with his explosiveness, a here you see me, here you don't type of deal. He launches himself and the poor back still doesn't know what happened. He is a really athletic kid that I think has the chance to get on the field and help us immediately."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on CB-Carroll Washington) -"Washington is our last guy, a corner out of Baltimore. He went through the same type of scenario as Kiero Small. He went to the same junior college, at Hartnell. He is an extremely talented corner, with great ball skills. You will see him up at the top of the screen on the numbers, he will backpedal out of this, read the quarterback's eyes, goes up and makes a very athletic one-handed catch. He was able to bring it down and it changes the game. I believe all three plays here are interceptions. He has the ability to do some different things. I think he has exceptional cover skills. I am very excited. Here the quarterback has a little bit of a problem but not as big of a problem as this one. He just makes great plays and has great athleticism. He makes the catch and changes the game. I think we have officially introduced dreadlocks to Arkansas football. Great play here, laying out and making something out of a poor throw by the quarterback. We will get him off the field a little quicker from here forward.
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on the class) -"That is a look at our guys. I think the thing that I am excited about is that it fits our needs in certain positions. Obviously, the thing I didn't want to do with this class was just take players to take players. When you go through this a couple of times, I have made some decisions in the past that when I went back and reviewed I just didn't want to take someone to fill a scholarship. So we still have a couple scholarships remaining. One thing I have learned in the SEC is that there are a certain number of schools that will over sign. Even though you can't over sign in the SEC, they will have more kids committed than they have scholarships for. We will be in tune to that in the next 48 hours. I have already got a couple things hopping there. In addition too, I really didn't know our entire roster. There were some kids that were walk-ons or non-scholarship players that look like they can help us and contribute. We are wanting to keep some things open there and I am sure just over the next couple months we will have some subtraction. Some people will not want to buy into exactly what is going on. That will naturally open some things up. I like the fact that we not only went international but we really hit every region in the country in a short amount of time and I am really excited about the future. With that I will open it up for some easy questions."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on encountering a hurdle on signing day) -"That is a great question, national signing day always comes with surprises, good and bad. You are going to get curve balls thrown at you that you are going to have to adjust to. The thing that is neat about the signing period is that it is a day that you are going to have to adjust and adapt. There are things that are going to come up that good coaches are going to be prepared for different scenarios. Regardless of what happens, you can be sure that as a head coach and as a recruiting coach as a position coach, we have always been in ahead of the game a little bit. The rest of this class we have put together here and in a week or two. From now we will adjust to what we can."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on Denver Kirkland's commitment) -"Denver was easy to see. I have known Coach (Randy) Shannon for a number of years. We will usually know linebacker coaches. When he was at the beginning of his career, I was at the beginning of mine. When I was at South Florida, Randy and I would be at the same practices watching the same guys. When the opportunity came to hire him I knew that we would have some immediate inroads into the areas that even I had not been exposed to in South Florida, just because of Randy's experience as a player, as a coach, as a head coach at Miami. One of the things that came up very quickly with Sam and with Jim is that they went through every offensive lineman in the country that was at the BCS level before we even hired Randy. Denver was one that jumped up on our radar even before Randy. It was in early December with Coach Pittman and Coach Chaney. When I brought in Coach Shannon and that marriage together with those two and a little bit of our history with Wisconsin with offensive lineman, bottom line I think that the relationships that our staff had with that area and that Denver came here and loved it. I think he was a little tired of the process. We went in there on a Tuesday before the visit, if I am not mistaken. As the week wore on, mom didn't want to come on the visit. She had already been to Florida and she thought she was done and tapped out and ready to make a decision. Mom said that she would come and then I remember during the trip that on Friday was good and she traveled a little bit. On Saturday she was grinning ear to ear. I asked her what was going on and she said coach your player panel absolutely won me over. A player panel is this, it is something I believe in and something that we have been doing for a while at every place that I have been. It is a little bit of a leap of faith because we select some kids that represent the areas that we are going after. We leave the room as coaches and turn the mother and the kid over to our players. What they began to do was talk about some of the things that they had seen change in them. The way we were handling our business with our roster. The things that we expressed about the dreams that we had, that won the mom over. If those kids were that excited she wanted her son to be a part of it. That part was cool and then it got kind of intense. I think Coach Pittman and Coach Shannon aged about 10 years in the last 24 hours. I think he came here for all of the right reasons, and I think he will be rewarded because of it."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on how proud he is of this class after getting a late start) -"I am very proud of them right now because we are undefeated. That is an easy part to like as coaches. As a signing class hopefully we are going to come in a build them up. I am not going to give any kid undue pressure. There are kids in this class that have five stars and there are kids in this class that have two stars. During my life as a head coach and what I learned is that everybody is recruited and that everybody gets one paper and that everybody signs one scholarship. We are going to bring them in here and work them, we are going to grind them, we are going to turn them into the young men that they can be. We are going to turn them into the football players that they can be. What happens three of four years from now is going to be the proof in the pudding. I love it. When you go back to past experiences as a head coach I was angry. We were ranked ninth in the Big Ten. We were 74th in the country. I was twisted beyond relief. My athletic director at the time, Coach Alvarez, grabbed me and said don't worry about where you are ranked today, worry about where you are ranked four years from now. Four or five years later that was the first team to give me a championship. They were the first Big Ten championship that I had. It was a core of those guys that added to it. I don't know where we are ranked today. I really don't care. I don't look for headlines today, all I look to do is to do what we do and we will be rewarded in the future."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on recruiting on the offensive and defensive line) - "I do think it's important for us, the guys that have been around me for a while, I believe in building from the ground up on the offensive line and the defensive line. It's critical for us. A lot of programs talk about the wide receivers or the running backs, the DBs, all the pretty guys on the edges. I love to concentrate on the guys that make it happen up front and let the other guys run. It was critical, and we went after numerous offensive lineman. Not so many defensive linemen, because we are really strong on defensive line for next year. We kind of set the foundation for next year's recruiting class. We got a core group there we can build around. Hopefully in the years to come, this is just the start of what could be something really special."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on running backs) - "It's just pure numbers. In my previous experience, I'd always sign one running back every year. If you can go out and recruit a great one every year, you can have five great ones in your program. That's going to eventually be our goal. This year just in pure numbers, with the guys returning on the roster, we thought we needed a minimum of two. I would like in these remaining couple of scholarships to get a running back in there. But we'll handle it with whatever comes in front of us. As far as where we are going to go with the last three spots, we're going to get the best players. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you have 37 guys committed, and you can only sign 25, there's somebody unhappy. What we did, whether it was right, wrong, or indifferent, we had a meeting in the department yesterday at five o'clock, and got the list of verbals for every SEC school. We'll compare that during the course of the day, and we already have it done, what guys of that verbal list actually did sign. Those that didn't we'll go through. A lot of them we knew already. We're not going to sign a guy just to sign a guy. If guys in our conference, if they don't want them, I think we might. There are some guys on our team that are living examples of that. It's something I'm not going to do. I just don't want to go down that path. It doesn't make a lot of sense for me to call up a kid on a Tuesday night and wreck his life. I'm not going to go down that road. As we go through this, we have to get a feel for that conference and how it's playing out. It's definitely something that we can move forward on."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on past relationships in recruiting) - "As a head coach, I always put a premium on relationships. Coaches are going to come from certain geographic locations. They may have recruited somewhere in the past. I think I hired a group of nine coaches that really can recruit anywhere. I'm going to have certain coaches recruit certain areas, but if you are a dynamic coach, you can go out and recruit anywhere. It would be natural for me to keep Coach (Randy) Shannon and Coach (Charlie) Partridge in Florida. They are well versed in that area. Coach (Sam) Pittman is from Oklahoma. Coach (Barry) Lunney is from here and played in the state. He'll be here in the state. Coach (Joel) Thomas has been in Texas. Coach (Michael) Smith has been in Texas. We'll work ourselves through that over the next couple of weeks. What I think is a premium, and in today's world especially, is a coach that, while you are recruiting this kid, is going to tell you that he has a sophomore to keep an eye on, or a freshman, and begin to cultivate that relationship. That's paramount in recruiting, and that's something that we'll build on continually. I'm also excited about recruiting traditional SEC areas. We'll be strong in North Texas, Dallas and Houston. I think Texas is a premium state. Any state bordering us is going to be a priority because you have people that live just across the state line that are from Arkansas, or if they don't they have relatives in Arkansas. And if you live in Arkansas, chances are you are a Razorback. We'll also go after some non-traditional areas, some areas where I have had success in the past. We'll go into Wisconsin and try and get the best players in Wisconsin. I've got a lot of great relationships with coaches up there. I think it's going to be important for us to go into Chicago. We popped in there and did some junior recruiting. And the reception was unbelievable. We'll go into Cincinnati, we'll go into New Jersey. We'll go into some areas in Seattle and up on the west coast where Coach (Joel) Thomas has had some success. It's very apparent to me early in this job that people like the SEC. If you are a competitive football player, and you want to play at the highest level, you are interested in Arkansas for one reason, and that's the SEC."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on the changes over the offseason) - "I've seen players change right in front of my eyes, guys that have been with (strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert) for about four weeks. I'm sitting at a recruiting dinner and Kiero Small is telling me about how he's changed his life, how he's eating in the last three weeks. They put a piece of cheesecake that I could have eaten three of, and he passed on it to the end. He's got better discipline than I do. Hearing him talk said a lot to me. You hear that players at training table come down and make great decisions on what they are eating. The part that we have to keep harping on them is that it's not just what they do, it's how they recover. It's how they handle their nutrition. To hear our recruits and their parents talk about the way our kids talked in the player panel about Coach Herbert and the changes we've made, that part's exciting. A couple of our coaches have been able to have some one-on-one meetings with our guys about what's going on, and it's all been very upbeat and positive. I can't wait for spring ball to get here so we can get our hands on them and start working with them and find out what it's all about."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on three recruits from Fayetteville High School) - "I've never signed three kids from the same high school. I asked our staff, and no one remembered being able to do that. We've had a lot of maybe two-fers, but not a three-fer. I remember when I first took the job, first looking it up and the first guy it started with was Austin Allen. And I was blown away. It just goes back to spring (at Wisconsin) where I heard his name and he was an early commitment to Arkansas. He fell off our radar right away up there, but once I saw the film, I remembered what I liked. The next guy was Alex Brignoni. He was all over the place and making great plays. I was very excited about what he brought. I saved the last guy for last just because I'm a linebacker coach and I wanted to see exactly where we stood. And Brooks (Ellis), his film was unbelievable. That was just the beginning. When I got a chance to visit with these three guys, by NCAA rules, I can only go off campus one time to see them. They came over and all of us sat in my office for maybe an hour or an hour and a half. Their personality, their dynamics, all three knowing each other obviously for a long time. What I love about Austin (Allen), obviously his dad is on the staff, that wasn't an issue and won't be moving forward. His brother is on the team. It was just really neat to see those kids talk about why they wanted to be here, to see their leadership skills. I had a great chance to go to Coach Patton and sat down with him last week for about an hour and a half in Fayetteville High. To hear everyone talk about them, I think that trio, the Three Musketeers, will be somebody you hear about for a long time"
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on keeping class together through transition) - "The first team meeting I had with our current roster, I told them that when they were all getting recruited here, I don't care if you had 20 offers or two offers or if you are sitting here as a walk-on. What that team room went through in the last year, no one could prepare them for, could put them in that position and explain how that was going to happen. They championed that moment. I know that everybody wanted to win more games. When I saw them play LSU the way that they did, and realize there was nothing on the line but pride, that said a lot to me about what that room had in it. Then the transition to where we are now in recruiting, I did lean on those Fayetteville kids because I knew they were solid. I knew they believable in this place for what it was beyond any coach. They love what a Razorback means. All three of them are very dynamic kids. They are kids that are fun. I called Alex and Austin and they were at a cheerleading competition in Central Arkansas. And I asked why they were at a cheerleading competition, but the answer was obvious. They like to have a little bit of fun and go along with it. They are just engaging. I hit them up right away about recruiting other guys. Hunter Henry was another one. He was all over anybody and anyone, once he reaffirmed that he wanted to be a Razorback. (Tevin) Beanum was awesome reaching out to guys, and Drew Morgan wore out the phone trying to get other guys to come here. That's what you want. You want great Arkansas kids to be the foundation for building and they can spread the gospel."
Head Coach Bret Bielema (on the reputation of Arkansas football in the state) - "I've been blown away. I had a good feeling that the reception would be very, very positive. Every high school that I went in the state, and we tried to get to as many as we could as a staff and still balance what we needed to get done, there was no doubt in my mind. When I stood up at the podium when I took the job, I said we were going to throw a boundary around the state and keep it as tight as we can, I hadn't spent one day in the state of Arkansas recruiting. Now that I've spent four to five weeks on the phone, building relationships, there's no doubt in my mind that can only get stronger. We didn't get everybody we wanted this year. The part that we want to make sure that we can correct from this point forward is establishing what that means. It's been that way every place I've been, but you can tell here at Arkansas that to come here from the state of Arkansas and play and letter, and get a degree, it's a gift for the rest of your life. If you are a kid that leaves the state, you are going to be the kid that left, and you'll always be remembered as that guy, and your glory will never be the same. That's not to slam anybody or to do anything to the people that leave, other than we need to tell our kids and make that be reinforced from their recruitment process all the way forward that is the fact of life, and that's reality, and that's what life is."
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