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Assistant here under John Cohen and then followed him to Mississippi State.
I'm going to Italy...right in the middle of the Bahamas games UK is gonna be in. @@PuddingTime @@SECats Any idea how I could watch the games? Will it be on espn3 for free?
Going to MSG!
12. Ole Miss
13. South Carolina
17. Miss. State
30. Texas A&M
Original story on ESPN-Blog:
First-year Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has seen his team in pads for all of one practice, last Thursday.
So he’s still trying to get a feel for what he has and what he doesn’t have at this point. The Hogs are off for spring break this week and will return to practice next Tuesday.
We caught up with Bielema recently to get his thoughts on the start of practice, his vision for the Arkansas program and some of the challenges he faces after making the move from the Big Ten to the SEC.
Here’s our Q&A:
How much Arkansas tape did you guys look at from last season?
Bret Bielema: Offensively and defensively, we had to look at some, just from a standpoint of personnel. There’s going to be some very dramatic differences in scheme and technique. There wasn’t a big emphasis on that. It was more just getting to know the personnel and where they’re at. As a head coach, I personally watched very little because I didn’t want to form any expectations or draw any conclusions before I saw what was in front of me as reality. I think that’s the only way to do it.
Where do you think most of your work will be cut out with this team?
BB: It’s up front, offensively and defensively, and that’s where it all starts, in the line play. I really believe in that. It’s the foundation of what we do. To me, that can’t waver if you want to have success in any conference, in any capacity, when you have to build from the ground up. That’s important for us. It doesn’t matter what the scheme is.
It appears that one of your strengths in 2013 will be your defensive line with several players returning who were productive for you last season. Isn’t that a good place to start?
BB: I’m not going to put my head in the sand. Up front defensively, I think we have some players that return who are exceptional. I think one of the strongest coaches on our staff is our defensive line coach (Charlie Partridge). One of the different things we did was combine the defensive ends and defensive tackles into one room and with one coach. I just think those four have to learn to play together with their eyes closed. They have to know where each other are on any given play, and they’ve got to be able to play off one another very, very well. The ability to combine that room is only going to make us stronger.
What has been the attitude of the team entering spring, especially given how disappointing last season was coming off a pair of highly successful seasons in 2010 and 2011?
BB: I’ll read you three things from my notes the first day of practice. No. 1, the kids are listening, so be careful what you say and make it be exactly what you want. No. 2, the kids are hungry. Cultivate the improvement on day-to-day progress. Don’t let a day go by. No. 3, the kids are talented. Clean up the details on how the kids can play. Don’t make them over-think. Don’t make them overreact. Just let them play instinctively and become a team that can play very, very fast and very physical. I’ve been overwhelmed at the way our kids have transitioned, not just the kids, but the coaches as well. That’s been a pretty neat feeling.
Speaking of your coaches, how important was it to get the right mix on your staff?
BB: It was important to nail my coordinators. That’s why Jim Chaney and Chris Ash were my first two hires. I just couldn’t do it until after the Rose Bowl, but Jim confirmed to me that he was coming. I didn’t want to bring with me my whole staff from Wisconsin. Obviously, we had done some good things and won a championship there. But it’s not going to be a cookie cutter of Wisconsin. It’s going to be a program that’s built here to win at Arkansas and built to win in the SEC and sustain success over a period of time. That’s why I blended in a little bit of what I had, a little bit of what I wanted and a little bit of the unknown. All the coaches have strong ties to either myself or coaches on the staff.
Was it even more crucial, moving over to the SEC, to make sure you brought in proven recruiters?
Bret Bielema: It was extremely important to hire a group of coaches who were relentless recruiters. I think this is the first time I can say that all nine of my assistants are detail guys and they love to recruit. That’s going to pay dividends, and they all have a vast amount of experience. We’ve got NFL. We’ve got SEC. We’ve got every type of conference known to man. It’s going to be fun to watch this group grow. If you talked to every one of my assistants, no one is enjoying this more than we are. I’ve got a group that’s engaged with a lot of different chemistry and a lot of different personalities coming through, and they’ve all been great.
You went down to South Florida and got a couple of coveted prospects in your first signing class (running back Alex Collins and offensive tackle Denver Kirkland). What recruiting territories will be critical for you at Arkansas?
BB: With Randy (Shannon) and Charlie (Partridge) and my success in South Florida, we expected to have success there and thankfully had it. A big push for us is that we’re putting six recruiters in the state of Texas. We have to be more than competitive in North Texas and East Texas for us to have a chance here at Arkansas. We play Texas A&M for the next 10 years in Dallas. That has to be a big, big area of emphasis for us.
What will be your biggest adjustment as a head coach in the SEC?
BB: Without a doubt, the recruiting landscape. It’s not an adjustment, just different from what I’ve done. Great recruiters can recruit anywhere. That’s the philosophy I took into this year, and we’ll carry it forward.
What about the league? How long will it take you to get up to speed on the league?
BB: My summer project is to watch seven to 10 complete games of everybody on our schedule. I’ll watch the TV copy and football copy and get a feel for what’s happening during the course of the game. It will be great teaching. I also have to get to know the personality of my team, if I can go for it on fourth-and-2 or do I kick a field goal. Those are all things in progress for me.
Have you gotten a feel for the leadership on this team yet?
BB: The most pleasant surprise when I came here was the group of 22 seniors who walked into my office who have tremendous respect for Arkansas and what it can be. They’re extremely eager to jump in and change gears. The last 18 months haven't been something that was very special to them. There’s been a lot of disappointment and a lot of heartache, and they’re hungry. I really don’t care how many of those guys are going to be All-Americans or NFL draft picks. But it’s been very apparent to me that it’s very important to them to be at Arkansas and to be a Hog.
Even with all your success at Wisconsin, did you find yourself wondering about the SEC and whether or not you could win big in this league?
BB: As the SEC began to build its superiority in college football, that naturally appealed to any competitor. As we had success at Wisconsin, I had more and more opportunities. I’m not one of those coaches that likes to have my name out there. Other coaches throughout the world of college football love to see their name being mentioned for different jobs. I’m just not one of those guys. That’s why we took the world by storm when I came here. Nobody really knew about it. I made sure it was done that way.
What about the Arkansas job appealed to you?
BB: A lot of it was finding the right fit in the SEC. I’m not saying Arkansas and Wisconsin are identical twins, but I think they’re from the same family. They’re proud states, have great fan support and have a handful of good players every year. You’re going to have to go out of state every year to complement your whole team to win a championship, and that’s some of the challenges we have here at Arkansas.
Does your philosophy change any now that you’re in the SEC?
BB: In today’s world of up-tempo offenses and all the things that go into it, you need to have depth in the defensive line. And offensively, you’ve got to be able to knock somebody off the line of scrimmage. You can’t rely on tricking somebody. If your offensive game plan is built around tricking someone, you don’t have a chance. You’ve got to be able to put a hat on a hat and play big-boy football and be able to play in a world where you’re tougher than the guy in front of you.