Razorback head football coach Bret Bielema said Friday at a golf outing that he and his staff would soon be in the school's new football operations.
"On July 5th we will take over ownership of our new facility so our coaches will be able to move into their offices," Bielema said. "Our players, in late June, we are going to take them into the facility and show them the facility that they are going to be moving in early August and I think that is going to get everybody's juices flowing."
Bielema said he and has his staff have already spent a week in game mode.
"With the culmination of getting done with spring recruiting and then we had four camps, I think as a coach you naturally switch into that game operation," Bielema said.
"We did a mock game week where we broke down two opponents," Bielema added. "We went through all our scouting reports, our cut-ups, game plans, game books, when we get players on a daily basis and our schedule on practice as if there was a practice. We reviewed where we would be on the field. That kind of snaps you into game mode."
While he can't get official reports from stength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert, Bielema can just see the difference as his players roll through the Broyles Complex – the current football operations center.
"It has been unbelievable," Bielema said. "We can't be around them and can't have actual physical reports on them, but I see the kids when I see them come through the offices.
"I see different guys," Bielema added. "(Offensive lineman) Grady (Ollison), I think is like two pounds away from 300. I saw him from across the field the other day. I have seen our freshmen come in and buy into it. They talk about how physical the workouts have been. It has been fun. I won't see the results until August 4, but I know the guys are very excited."
Bielema said he has taken steps to develop leadership and a channel of communication with his players – beginning with something he calls a Hog Council.
"I have two players from each position, I try to have contact with them ever so often," Bielema said. "My senior leaders guys I know that are going to be at the forefront."
He mentioned Keiro Small, Travis Swanson, Chris Smith and defensive tackles Byran Jones and Robert Thomas as senior leaders for this team.
"We had a meeting when we got back and I recognized I believe15 guys that had their personal best semesters academically," Bielema said. "There was some guys that not normally on a list like that so it was good to see the player's reaction to guys that have had success in the classroom and see how it carries over."
Arkansas has the vast majority of his newcomers on campus and likes what he sees from them so far.
It has been fun for me," Bielema said. "We actually had a youth camp where we had first-, second-, third- and fourth-graders. We asked our freshmen if they could say hello, do an autograph session and they came out. They did some touchdown dances. There's a couple of them I hope don't ever score, that will be a blessing for all of us."
Bielema would love to have more contact with his newcomers than the NCAA allows.
"What's bad about the NCAA rules you recruit all these kids, sign them and do all this effort to get them here," Bielema said. "Once we get them here, we can't really be around them. Herb and his staff can and that's why it's important to build a relationship with those guys, but as coaches we can't go out and work with them on a daily basis. But you see them around."
Five more signees are due in for the next summer session, but one may not make it.
"All but five are here," Bielema said. "The rest will come in July 1. There's only one guy that is in question. That really won't be determined until the next 48 hours."
While Brandon Allen is the starting quarterback and A.J. Derby his projected back up, Bielema acknowledged his plan to get one of the freshman quarterbacks – Austin Allen or Damon Mitchell – ready to at least be on the travel roster.
"We're going to play everybody when their time comes," Bielema said. "I know the urgency and I know everybody wants to have two- or three-deep at their quarterback position. We were in a position last year (at Wisconsin) where we played four.
"I think what it does, it puts an importance on the offensive line, fullback, tight end and to protect our quarterbacks," Bielema added. "I do understand that Austin or Duwop (Mitchell) is going to be in a position even if they don't play to travel with us each game and be in a position if something happened."
Bielema was asked about recent comments by Athlon about this being a rebuilding team.
"I never talked to Athlon," Bielema said. "I have seen that before. I've really never bought stock into it. I go back to my lessons I have learned as a head coach. I remember when I took over at my previous job they had some of the similar comments that it would be tough for Wisconsin to transition into my leadership. We went 12-1 and played pretty well so again I don't worry too much about what other people say about us. I worry more about what our players talk about and what I talk about."
He does get while people think the Razorbacks are in rebuilding mode, but is not prepared to just accept that.
"I get it," Bielema said. "I understand from the outside world how that perception is there. A new head coach and it's a transition. We lost a lot of really good players.
"But I was emphatic when I knew we had 20 seniors in that room in December," Bielema added. " I didn't want it to be a rebuilding year. Maybe it was silly to say that, but a season like they had, as many players they lost and a new coaching staff.
" I think the pieces are in place, I don't think you need to repeat that season again," Bielema continued. " I think we need to do what we do, get it across to our players and take it one game at a time."
Bielema actually did some advance scouting this week and he and a group of Razorback personel took trips to Florida and Rutgers – two places he has not coached a game.
"I wanted to take all the people that are going to be in advance of us being there," Bielema said. "I took my equipment manager, my trainer and three of my operation guys. There was six of us total.
"We went to Florida, took a look at the hotel we're going to stay at," Bielema added. "One thing that's an adjustment with the SEC that I'm not accustomed to is you say further away in your hotels in general. There's a couple of stadiums it doesn't work that way. I wanted to get an idea how long of a drive it was and the logistics. Every state kind of has different rules about your escort."
He doesn't plan to do that every year, but wanted to make sure it was done right this way.
"I wanted to get a feel for that, any troubles a team has had in the past," Bielema added. "That was good, I had never been to Florida and I got to see the Swamp. It's a pretty nice setup.
"The big one was Rutgers because I had never been there," Bielema continued. "I was really glad I made that one. Stayed in the hotel that night where we will be staying. I saw the dining rooms, meeting rooms and I drove into the stadium. I won't do it again, I only did it my first year at Wisconsin. I throug in a (New York) Yankees game, too. I'm not a Yankees fan, everybody got mad on Twitter, but I got to experience a game as a Yankee."