State of the Hogs: WYSIWYG

How much of what you saw in the spring game is what you will get in the fall? Maybe more than you think, but Bret Bielema admits that the tricks were stripped away.

Sometimes there isn't much you can take out of a spring game as far as style or personnel. Coaches are a little nervous about showing too much of the real thing when television records everything.

And, there are times that the lineups are the result of fun time drafts or split squads for a competitive situation. They've done it both ways through the years at Arkansas. And coaches often match their starters against the reserves and it will be a runaway.

That's not what new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema did Saturday for the finale. He matched the first team offense against the first team defense, just like he did for every other scrimmage this spring. The result was a competitive game and interesting match-ups across the front.

Bielema said there were some tricks kept under wraps, but that style of play and the system will look familiar when fans see the Hogs again in September.

"It was what you are going to see in the fall," Bielema said. "We like the power run game. There are a lot of things we didn't run offensively. Defensively I was trying to limit (defensive coordinator Chris) Ash and the pressures he could bring, although he didn't obey my rules on that one either.

"He brought a few more pressures than I would have liked. It was mainly just one and two pressure looks. Those were pretty easy to pick up."

Bielema was responding to questions about the vanilla look of the game. He said sometimes vanilla brings out the best in the talent since it allows them to play faster.

"In a way though I made a comment to our coaches that we had a number of players that played their best scrimmage," Bielema said. "A lot of them would say that the limited package really helped them. I said, ‘Exactly. That's my point.'

"I would rather be great at a few things than be mediocre at a bunch of things. I say that all the time to my coaches. It's human nature. They have too many things. I have told the offensive and defensive coaches all along that you have to scale back their packages. I want to be great at it. That is a hard concept to get through sometimes."

It wasn't hard to figure out if Bielema's staff worked smoothly this spring. He brought two coaches from Wisconsin, defensive line coach Charlie Partridge and Ash. The rest are new to each other, except offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and O-line coach Sam Pittman. Those two worked together last year at Tennessee.

"I have been blown away with how well this staff has worked," he said. "I knew that I brought the coaches from Wisconsin that I wanted to bring with me and establish myself down here. I didn't want to do that. I could have brought everybody with me. I wanted some influences from other areas.

"Defensively I knew that I wanted to bring Chris (Ash) and Charlie (Partridge) for sure. I knew that I wanted to bring my strength coach (Ben Herbert) and my director of operations (Mark Taurisani).

"I knew that I wanted that to exist. I did talk to my offensive coaches, not my OC, about joining us here. They had other opportunities going and other positive things. To get this group together, they are a really good group of guys. They enjoy the game and they enjoy being around our kids. I think that rubs off on them.

"One of the biggest things that we try to stress during the last couple weeks is really letting our players' personalities come out a little bit and be a little fun, be engaging. We wanted to have a little bit of attitude and energy on the field. That has slowly come out and it really showed on Saturday."

With spring done, it may be time for Bielema to finally unpack in his new house. But maybe not. He's gotten orders to stay away from the boxes.

"We are in a house but the house is still boxes," he said. "I haven't unpacked one box and I have been told and informed that I am not going to. I am being a good husband and staying away from that scenario.

"I think the more and more comfort we are getting is the standard way of doing things. We are getting back to a little bit of a rhythm and a standard mode of operation. I think all of my coach's families are here except for coach (Charlie) Partridge's.

"His wife was in here this weekend but she is coming down here with their two kids after the school year is over. As the families have been around a little more we are getting more comfortable. Just to be around our players has been the biggest thing.

"You know those first two months I was literally taking a media guide on the plane, when I was traveling, and trying to memorize faces and names. To know your entire roster and being able to say something to them by name is a big deal."

Everyone is starting to figure things out. Everything is recognizable now -- offense, defense, coaches and players. And it will look familiar in the fall, too.

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