Bielema Sets Tone in First Practice

Bret Bielema made his first trip to Searcy on Monday night to talk to the White County Razorback Club. It was a makeup trip for a visit postponed by weather a few weeks ago. Bielema said he set the tone with a message after a water break in Sunday's first workout.

SEARCY -- Bret Bielema said the first snap was great and the last snap was great. In between, he found some garbage.

That is what the Arkansas coach said Monday night at Searcy High School in a brief meeting with a few media members about his first practice as head coach. The Hogs worked in helmets and shorts Sunday afternoon in Walker Pavilion.

Bielema didn't talk about specific players in the media briefing Monday night, but he did say that he called them back to the field after one break because "they left some garbage" laying on the field in the indoor workout area.

"We really try to keep them hydrated during practice and we had a water break a little past halfway," Bielema said. "I want them slamming fluids. And after about five minutes, I got them up and ready to go back and they just threw down all the water cups.

"I sent them back and had them pick it all back up and throw it away. The managers and trainers have jobs and they don't need to be picking up the garbage.

"I think it's about doing it right the first time. We won't have to do that again. I think it's about the details of winning and it was a good time to go over that. I think they understood and we won't have that again. The good ones do it right. It's about doing things right every step of the way, on fourth-and-1. Be precise."

Bielema had been scheduled to speak to the group two weeks ago, but that trip was postponed because of bad weather that made the plane trip impossible.

The Hogs began spring drills with a closed practice Sunday afternoon in Walker Pavilion. The Hogs will resume workouts Tuesday. They will don pads for the first time Thursday, but contact won't be allowed until after spring break. The team will be off next week. The spring game is at 2 p.m. April 20.

"Last time it was unfortunate, the weather didn't allow for the trip," Bielema said. "We got it scheduled the next day and knew we had a day off from practice. Just meetings today."

There were no mention of players, but Bielema did take a few questions on the opening practice.

"It was good," he said. "I did make the first audible of the spring. We wanted to go outside, but the weather didn't permit it.

"The players were very, very open to coaching. The energy was good. I thought the execution was good from both the players and the coaches. It was the first day for the coaches, too, and all of us working together.

"It was awesome. I had a feeling it was going to be that way. There was a lot of excitement going in. Our kids had done a lot of great things in the preparations. They knew where they needed to be to handle the day.

"We stayed relatively injury free. We had good tempo, good energy, good hard work. We got good work on film, all the things you really want.

"This morning when I met with the coaches, I had two or three pages of notes from practice. It didn't have anything to do with Xs or Os."

What was on the two or three pages of notes?

"Just how we wanted to line up, the tempo," he said. "The positives, the negatives, to set the standard as we are moving forward."

There were no real surprises.

"I guess everything is a surprise, because you haven't seen a practice," he said. "But the guys we thought could run, could run. The guys we thought could throw the ball, threw it well. The guys we thought could catch it, caught it well.

"The first two or three days are always more predicated to the defensive side of the ball because you aren't allowed to be in pads. So it's more up tempo and getting guys in the right spot. I think tomorrow should be cleaner and then Thursday we should have a great day."

Bielema said this was an unusual first day in some respects.

"I've had first days before, but when I became a head coach (at Wisconsin) I had been there two years previous as defensive coordinator," Bielema said. "I knew the players a little bit. But this is walking into a new environment for the first time.

"This is physically the first time to see them react to getting lined up and what you are telling them. That's a little bit unique, but definitely great."

The leadership is evolving.

"The seniors that you'd hope would take a little bit of that role, definitely did," Bielema said. "That's going to come out more and more as they get in tough situations. That's what truly defines leadership."

Speaking to a packed crowd in Searcy, Bielema began with some recruiting stories. He went over the signing of Alex Collins and noted that he would be sending Mother's Day cards to Miami later this spring.

Concerning the first practice, he said the five junior college transfers were all impressive "and will help us.

"Carroll Washington, a junior college All-American at corner, was very impressive," Bielema said. "He got a couple of picks yesterday. That's good for your defense, but not so good for your offense. But there's some give and take in practice."

Bielema went through his staff, but saved special praise for strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert.

"I don't know why he can't do anything with me," Bielema said. "I've been around him the most and I'm paying him the most. But my body isn't getting any better."

The players are changing.

"Kiero Small was 270 when we got here," Bielema said. "He's lost 18 pounds and his body is now a freak show. We've got a tight end who has gained 18 pounds. It's fun to see the transformations."

Bielema said safeties Rohan Gaines and Eric Bennett had good days Sunday.

"Those two jumped out at us in the first day," Bielema said. "They are going to make big jumps in a short time.

"We are going to run a 4-3 with quarter coverage in the back. That is man principles with zone. You need to be really sound in the back. Our guys got that in a nutshell yesterday. You can't get beat over the top."

How will he pick a quarterback?

"It may be a coin toss," Bielema said, then reminded that a Tyler Wilson autographed print went low in the auction before he spoke. He then broke into auction speak, a little better than the Searcy man before him.

"I would have got that done a little quicker," he said. "I wanted it to end and almost jumped in there. I know how to end those, 'SOLD!!!' Tyler was in my office last week. He's tall and is good looking. I'd like to have him.

"I do believe in competition bringing out the best and we'll have that. But if I have to, I'll flip a coin."

Bielema said the competition is one less at defensive end. He said Austin Flynn, who was arrested earlier this winter, will transfer.

"There are not a lot of options for a senior," he said. "We did everything we could for him academically. We'll help him with options."

Bielema said Sunday night was his anniversary, an event that was much planned. He said wife Jen, who was scheduled to make the first Searcy trip, was at home Monday night setting up furniture in their newly purchased home.

"I flew in flowers from our wedding," Bielema said. "I had a private room at one of her favorite restaurants. It was all supposed to be a surprise.

"So we went in the front door, and the lady at the door said, 'Happy anniversary.' Well, that blew that. So I thought, the private room is still a surprise. We got to the bar and the guy here took care of the rest. He said, 'Your room in the back is beautiful.' Oh well, it was a surprise until five seconds ago."

Bielema was asked about uniforms. He said the only change coming next year, a cardinal Razorback would be added to the white helmets. And, when the Nike contract runs out, traditional uniforms would return.

"They are going to be clean and traditional," he said. "We may wear something different once a year because you have to for recruiting. But our home and away will be a lot like you saw 10 years ago.

"We wore the same uniforms for seven years at Wisconsin. I talked to Joe Paterno about Penn State's uniforms. He said he didn't like them, but they were Penn State's uniforms and that told me a lot. I believe the same thing."

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