FAYETTEVILLE – The football program wrapped up media day Sunday afternoon. Every member of the 105-man roster took photos as several spoke with the media about the upcoming 2014 season. Head coach Bret Bielema addressed the assembled media as the team heads into its second week of fall camp.
Selected Quotes from Coach Bielema (@BretBielema)
“I was very excited coming off the field (after Saturday’s scrimmage). After getting a chance to sit down and watch the film with the staff and having the opportunity to make some adjustments to our depth chart, I thought there were a lot of positives to come out of yesterday. We stayed pretty healthy, got some guys nicked or dinged up but nothing significant. In addition to that, Tevin Mitchel got clearance so he has been removed from wearing the green jersey so he’ll be in full participation this week, and next Saturday, he’ll return to live competition. We mentioned it yesterday before the scrimmage but it was the first time Demetrius Wilson was cleared and involved in full contact. We kept Trey Flowers out of everything last spring so both of those guys resume right where they’d left off. We did make a couple of modifications with a position change. Grady Ollison will move from offensive line to defensive line. We’re going to switch him into the three technique. He was a kid that was recruited here to the (offensive) line before we were here and with the development of some of our young guys and new players coming in, we felt Grady needed a fresh breath of air to move out to the three technique to see what he can do there. We’re excited about that. There are so many things to happen away from the field that I’m so impressed with and you see it carry over with our guys in learning the game and understanding what we’re having them do. There’s a maturity level to them that’s nice to be around. We got our summer grades in on Thursday of last week and we had 260 total grades. To put things in perspective, 260 total grades from football players taking summer classes and 92 were A’s and 89 were B’s. We had over 180 A’s and B’s out of 260 classes. I remember the first time I did a grade report in January when I first got here, we had more C’s, D’s and F’s than we did A’s and B’s. Now we’ve completely turned that around. I know (Jonathan Williams) tweeted about (his 4.0) and those weren’t pottery classes. Those were legit, big-time classes that he attacked on a daily basis. Keon Hatcher had two really difficult classes and came out of there with all A’s. All around us, there are a lot of positive things. It’s an exciting time to be in program and I’m excited to get into week two. Week two will be a lot better than week one although I was really impressed and excited about the progress.”
On the next step for the program…
“We’re a step closer today than we were yesterday. I’m not saying when we’re going to get to the top of the mountain but I know we’re going to get there. Again, I was just so excited about what I saw yesterday and heard things at practice that I’d never heard with the intensity of the hits, the collisions, the ball disruption, the breaks on the ball by the defense, the big plays being thrown and caught by the offense. Those things change games. We talk about the five edges of Arkansas. One, two and three have nothing to do with ability. First thing we talk about is being physically and mentally tougher than our opponent. Second thing is we’re going to play fast and through the whistle. The third thing is we’re going to be smart. We’re not going to turn the ball over or create any pre-snap or post-snap penalties. We’re going to be great with football IQ. Those three things have nothing to do with ability. Now, number four for us is winning critical downs. Yesterday, we worked third down, fourth down and high red zone. Tomorrow, we’ll put in low red zone and goal line. Those are critical downs that come down to execution. Our guys have so much more awareness of that now than ever before. It’s awesome to be a part of. To hear my coaches take so much pride in the improvement of their players and for the players to know that their coaches love seeing the play…when there’s that much emotion, usually good things happen.”
On the talent level compared to last season…
“Recruiting can make a difference but player development makes the biggest difference. Look at Brey Cook. In my opinion, when we got here we were like ok, we love him, he’s a great kid but he has changed his body. You have seen his before and after (stats). His confidence level is off the charts. He’s playing as good as I could have ever perceived him to play and every day he gets better. So that is truly player development. It’s the resources that administration gives us, the strength coach that I have that lives behind us. That changes players once you get them here. But I think recruiting helps. Like I said, our three freshman linebackers made an immediate impact in the locker room because all of a sudden those guys are looking around and saying ‘wow, this really is what is going on now’. Another player development was Carroll Washington. He was a guy that was already being recruited here but he remained on our board. When he got here, he weighed 162 pounds and now he is 195 pounds and the best corner on our team, playing lights out and I’m excited to watch him grow. I think we are better overall talent wise but it is still the lack of depth at certain positions. (The center position) is very scary you know but I feel good about everywhere else we just have so much more depth at offensive line. Now we are struggling with who do we put in with the ones and how much. At tight end, we really only have four true tight ends. If one of those guys goes down, that really changes the game for us. At certain positions we need to keep coming.”
On the impact the new defensive coaches are having…
“I think they are having a huge impact. I grabbed my coaches yesterday and called a little surprise staff meeting and I brought them all in at 2:30 and we weren’t going to meet until after they had met with their players but I wanted them to know that the changes that I saw on the film and in that stadium didn’t just happen by chance. I know our players did it and we sell that on a daily basis, but our coaches made that happen. People that were at the scrimmage that I respect said even from last spring to where you are now, that is a different unit out there and I think a lot of it has been on defense. I think the continuity of offensively keeping the coaches and a lot of the same players has helped us a lot. But the dramatic confidence and swagger that our defense showed and the ability to create some disruption in the ball was immediate and kind of when I made reference to hearing my coaches talking to our players and showing how much they care about them, that goes a long way.”
News and Notes:
• Arkansas Football will host an open scrimmage for fans on Saturday, August 16, at 2:25p.m., in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
• The Arkansas Football Fan Day presented by Pepsi will be held Sunday, Aug. 17 from 2-4 p.m. in Bud Walton Arena. All fans in attendance will receive the official 2014 Razorback football team poster and pocked schedule card.
• Season tickets for the 2014 football season are now on sale starting at $300. Tickets for both Fayetteville and Little Rock games may be purchased by clicking here or by contacting the UA Ticket Office at 1-800-982-HOGS (4647).
• The 2014 Football Kickoff Luncheon, presented by URETEK Capital will be held on Aug. 22 at noon at the NWA Convention Center in Springdale, Ark. The doors will open at 11:15 a.m., and general admission tickets are $25 each. A reserved table for eight, with two seats for student-athletes or football personnel, is $300. To purchase tickets, please call 1-800-982-HOGS.
Up Next: The Razorbacks will return to the field Saturday evening for a special teams practice. On Saturday, August 16, Arkansas football will host an open scrimmage for fans in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium at 2:15 p.m.
Follow Live: For complete coverage of Arkansas football throughout fall camp, follow @RazorbackFB on Twitter.
Kickoff: The Razorbacks open the season with a Southeastern Conference contest at Auburn University on Aug. 30. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium and will be televised on the SEC Network.