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August 10, 2014
VIDEO: Bielema on Sunday
CLICK HERE to watch Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema at Arkansas Media Day on Sunday
"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 what he has to prove during the 2014 season
"I don't really have anything to prove. I try to go through life having success today better than yesterday. I took this challenge as an internal thing. Obviously, a lot of things went into. I wanted to try something that hadn't been done, and in this world, there aren't a lot of those things left. So the challenge of winning an SEC Championship is something I think about daily but as far as proving anything, I don't really spend a lot of time thinking about that."
On Demetrius Wilson coming back from injury
"I think it's a year of redemption for Demetrius. Last year at this time, he was looking at his senior year and all the dreams you have going into your senior year and then he tore his knee up in fall camp. It's similar to Kiero Small the year before I got here. He was preparing for his senior year and it got taken away from him. Thank goodness they had a senior year with a redshirt. (Demetrius) has been awesome. He's gotten up to 200 pounds a couple of times during the summer. He put in a lot of really good work and changed some things that were going on in his life away from the game. That's been a step in the right direction. He's the senior in that room. He works really hard and is catching the ball really well. We're only going to let him go once a day. He won't do double days in practice. His knee has had a full recovery but we just don't want it to become an issue. He's doing extremely well in the classroom, as well."
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 splitting carries between the three running backs
"With these guys, it's a work in progress. They know for us to have success all three of them have to be really good. I think (Jonathan Williams) is really good at certain things, Korliss Marshall is exceptional when you give him a little bit of space and Alex (Collins) probably has the most ability to make something out of nothing like when it is plugged up. He can make a guy jump, skip and do some unique stuff. It's a little bit about their ability, but a lot of it is about the flow of the game and what the coaches believe and have seen them do every day."
On if he was surprised by Alex Collins' and Korliss Marshall's performances as freshmen last year in the SEC
"Not really, not once you are around them. Korliss was a little bit of a surprise because he was such an under recruited player. We really liked him. I think if we had been here the entire recruiting season, we would have acted a lot on him earlier. I got a hold of his film. Give a lot of credit to Barry Lunney, Jr. He kept bringing his film into me and you could tell he was a very exciting player on film. But it didn't really show up until he got here and then you realized what he could do with the ball in his hand. Because I had known (Alex) for a long time, I knew he was going to be a special player. Our three running backs are some very gifted football players and they have some guys in front of them that know what they are doing. I think the fact that we have offensive and defensive line depth now is the most intriguing part of our program."
On Alex Collins getting up to 215 pounds
"Well, I think with the weight he actually looks better. Alex showed up as a very genetically gifted young man that got here the second summer session so we really didn't get a full summer with him and he came in as a very good high school football player trying to play in the SEC and you saw the results of it. I think now with a year in our program and his lower body strength, I think he is very happy with how his body looks. I know he was frustrated yesterday not getting to go. I don't know if he went to a faster 40 time or not but I think he is a more durable player."
On the prospects in line for the backup center job
"Well, (Luke) Charpentier can do it and we have put a ball in (Sebastian) Tretola and Cameron Jefferson's hands just to see if they can do it. But I am really excited about Mitch Smothers. He is a kid that has been looking for a spot as his home. Obviously, he was a highly recruited kid and I really like the way he has been playing. Charpentier would probably be our best backup now but I think Frank Ragnow and his process after five days was absolutely incredible and I'm excited the see the next three or four weeks with him."
On improvements of offensive and defensive lines
"Offensively, I think the number one thing up front is that we can get on the right guys and stay on them. I think that enables us to see the plays cleaner as a running back. It enables you to call the plays a little cleaner as a play caller. I'm not trying to be smart or sassy but what we diagram and call and ask our players to do is clearer now at practice then it has ever been and I think that gets you very excited. Same thing up front on defense, and really overall on defense. There were so many examples on defense yesterday of fast, aggressive, physical football with linebackers and defensive backs that I could pretty much confidently say that I saw more in one scrimmage yesterday than I saw in an entire season a year ago. It just was night and day and I think our offensive players would share that same sentiment."
On the talent level compared to last year
"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."
"Hoganese is a verbiage or a language and a way communicating in the Hog program that only we know. Football is very unique in the fact that I grew up in a junior high system and a high school system where I learned the junior high system and then, when I went to high school, it was another verbiage and language, even though in theory we were running the same offense and defense. I didn't know I was going to be a coach at the time but I remember thinking that makes no sense. I go on to college and I have to learn another language and verbiage unique to the University of Iowa. I teach, I breathe, I live that from my playing career and my coaching career and then when Kirk Ferentz comes in we changed everything again. So even though we were doing a lot of the same things, we had to change the words and the terms and the language. I went to Kansas State playing the same kind of football, ran the same type of defense but we had a totally different style of language, so as I got older in my profession and made me learn that it isn't what we know as coaches, but what our players know. We do this every day as a living. I go home and I have a notepad next to my bed because I might think of something at 1:00 a.m. when I wake up, and I don't want to lose that memory. I chose this as a profession. Our kids get to come over here for 20 hours a week and we expect them to know it as much as we do, so the more we can simplify it (the better). For example, the word rose. What does the word rose mean? It's a flower, right? What color flower? It's red. Most people say red but it could be red, white, yellow, whatever. There are all different kinds of roses. It can also be a woman's name. Has anyone ever met a woman named Rose? So it's one or the other. In our program when we are doing an action or a bootleg action to our right, it is called rose. The exact opposite of rose is a nice woman named Lisa. Rose is red or right or however you want to say it, we are going right. The exact same thing Rose is very good friends with Lisa except Lisa wants to go to the left. So instead of saying play action, hard sell to the left, we say Lisa and it gets all the words to mean one thing. So that's just a little snapshot of what Hoganese is. I doubt if you walk up to anyone on the street and talk about a rose they are going to fake to the right and go to the left if they do then they were probably in our class. So that's what Hoganese is in a nutshell."
On the NCAA decision with the Power 5 conference
"It obviously sets a whole new bar and a whole new level as far as what you are able to do. What we can do here at Arkansas compared to other places, and not just within our conference but we compete against schools in the Big 12 all the time just because of our location. A simple thing like our training table. We have a training table on a daily basis and now Ben Herbert, and his resources, and what he can do now without having limitations on what we can provide, from a food standpoint, is big. I constantly look for ideas and thoughts and I saw where there was an article about a team in the Big 12 who was going to have a food truck, which is very interesting, and it's because they didn't have the facilities. Everyone is going to find new ways to do things and it's a bit of an arms race. I am hopefully as price conscientious as anybody but sometimes those things come with a price tag, and also recruiting. It is going to be a matter of time before teams are trying to sell the advantage they may have because of the resources they have, and it makes me understand as a football coach I have to win games and put people in the stands and create revenue so we can do those things."
On how to keep recruits from singing multiple financial aid agreements
"There is nothing. Right now, a young man in high school can sign as many financial aid offers as he wants to. We did it last year with a couple young men. Three of them came here and one didn't, and we had to serve a penalty because of that. If you sign a kid to a financial aid agreement and he does not come, we are going to be penalized by NCAA rules. So the fact of the matter is, I think the type of men that we recruit and we sign them to a binding agreement like that, we make sure they are 100 percent in our boat. What makes it (nice) is I can freely comment on Ty Storey and comment about Zach Rogers. There is no limit to the amount of contact I can have with them like there is with other kids in their recruiting class. But I've only done it and will only do it with players who being a Hog is part of their DNA. I do not believe, that no matter what our record is this year, that Ty Storey or Zach Rogers are going to go anywhere else and if they do, I have hurt our program in a way."
On the NCAA violation
"Last year I wasn't able to have a scholarship but they lifted it at the 24th hour which allowed us a little bit of levity. What happened now is that if the dates don't coincide, I could lose an additional scholarship, which means you wouldn't be able to give it to a kid who was signing for the first time. But I really feel strongly about those two kids and if we do it with anyone else in the future."
On pros and cons of playing a tough opponent first vs. a lesser opponent in the season opener
"I don't look at it like that. I can't allow our team to look at it that way. We are going to take every team as an opportunity to get better. We are going to want to win it and we are going to do everything in our powers to win it. I get it. I understand there is a difference between Auburn and Nicholls State coming up right after it but we aren't going to do anything different in our lack of preparation or amount of preparation because of how they are ranked. I like this one because I think it gives us the unique opportunity at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year which I doubt anyone thought of when they made the schedule, but we are going to start the season and end the season with the two teams that played in the SEC championship game a year ago. I think we are going to have a great understanding of where we are within this conference after the outcome of those two games."
On Jojo Robinson
"We are going to rep him behind Jared Cornelius this week and if it doesn't look like he can help us then we will definitely redshirt him. But with he and Kendrick Edwards, we are going to see what they can do and see if they can help us in that department. The inside slot where Jared plays and where we are going to put Jojo. You like to have a guy with a little shake and bake to them and we think those guys give us the best opportunity."
On the impact the new defensive coaches our 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."
On Taiwan Johnson
"He took Denver Kirkland who is a tremendous pass blocker on a bull rush in the pocket and I think everyone was shocked. He has been a kid that ever since he got here has gotten better. He goes extremely hard. That scheme that we like to run and some of the things that we ask that nose to do and the quickness that he has and the ability to change direction can be a major asset. I also wanted to see DeMarcus square at the three technique because he did some good things when he played there last year in square so a little bit a combination of everything but I am very excited to see Taiwan this week. He is extremely efficient with his hands and he is very fast. He moves very efficiently and very quickly and when you are playing someone like that over the ball and you are giving that center a little bit of the nightmare effect of this guy is going to be all over you every play in every way that can disrupt an offense as much as anything so I'm excited to watch him."