SEC Media Days: Bielema trying to make mark In Fayetteville


HOOVER – Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema’s first season in Fayetteville was not one that he’ll necessarily remember for years to come. In the second year, he is trying to take it back to the bowl season.

The Razorbacks are coming off a 3-9 (0-8 in SEC) in 2013, after they went 4-8 the year prior. Now, they’re trying to take the program to the level that Arkansas fans had gotten used to over the years. Bret Bielema is trying to motivate his players in many ways. One way he is not is through the use of former players at Wisconsin that have gone on to NFL success.

“I knew that the outside world was going to do enough comparisons from my transition from Wisconsin to Arkansas that I didn’t want to throw it in my player’s faces,” Bielema said. “I wanted to build Arkansas.”

Bielema says that players will bring up his connection to coaching all-pro defensive end JJ Watt and quarterback Russell Wilson from his time at Wisconsin. In fact one of his newer players at Arkansas, fullback Kiero Small was picked last year by the Seattle Seahawks and has raved about his time with Wilson over the offseason. Outside of this, Bielema has kept the references to a minimum.

Another goal that Bielema had once he got to Arkansas was to change the attitude of the program. Bielema says he’s trying to install stability into the program.

“Kids had a lot of transition and a lot of different coaches,” Bielema said. “One of the biggest challenges I began to figure out after I was there, was that I had a room full of kids that had maybe lost that care factor. They had lost the ability to care for themselves first and foremost. Guys were settling for a ‘C’ in the classroom or a ‘D.’ When they could get a ‘B’ or an ‘A.’ Kids were settling for making behavior and social choices away from the game, that maybe weren’t making great choices for them in life. I needed to get those kids to care about themselves first. I needed to let them know that I cared about them, the coaches I hired cared about them, and that we all cared about them. All of the sudden they started to care about themselves. Then you’ve got a better chance that they might care about the guy next to them.”

Prior to his arrival in Fayeteville, the Razorbacks had gone through the whole Bobby Petrino ordeal and then struggled through the 2012 year with John L Smith as their coach.

In addition to changing the attitude of the program, Bielema had to adjust to life coaching in the SEC. That’s because he’d spent the last nine seasons in the Big Ten with Wisconsin. He got a quick crash course on the differences in year one.

“I think you can a lot more aggressively in this league defensively,” Bielema said. “I think you can play with your hands on people on offense a little more too in the offensive line play. I think that was something that I had to learn as a coach and coaches need to observe that.”

Bielema continued on with other facts in the SEC that he learned, that is controlled mostly by him. Not the action on the field.

“The obvious thing to me is that depth is paramount,” Bielema said. “Not just depth for a season, but depth for a game. There are a lot of things that we did well in the first and second quarter, that we couldn’t execute in the third and fourth quarter.”

One of the points that Bielema made to back up his point, was the game that got away from them against LSU last year on Thanksgiving weekend.

Arkansas will begin their on the road this season against Auburn on August 30. Georgia will get a look this season on the road against the Razorbacks in Little Rock on October 18.


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