Bielema sees positives

Brandon Allen in better shape injury wise than last two weeks. Will Hines could return for final two games after arm surgery.

Practice can't be longer, so it has to be better and on point as Arkansas has a few things to correct -- most importantly the passing game -- in the middle of a gauntlet schedule that has the Hogs on a three-game losing streak.

"We've played six complete ball games and we have to be careful how much we practice them at this point," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Monday.

"So we have to do these things: A, get better at protection; B, better at throwing; and, C, better at catching.

"Defensively, we have to react to our keys and tackle better."

Bielema said quarterback Brandon Allen was in better shape from an injury perspective than in the last three Sundays. His shoulder is better and he should be fine to practice Tuesday after also sustaining an injury to fingers on his throwing hand "when he was stepped on."

"He got banged around, but it's the best he's been on a Sunday," Bielema said. "We've got to protect him better."

Bielema said Allen is an accurate passer when he's protected. He pointed to the Texas A&M game as evidence.

"As the game wore on (against Florida) and he was getting hit, he got gun shy," Bielema said. "We let him know we are going to protect him until the end of the game."

Bielema was asked if Allen had shown he can lead.

"I hope so," Bielema said. "Against A&M, I thought he was feisty to be back out there. In the third quarter Saturday, I thought he was demonstrative on the sideline with his teammates. The part we have to emphasize with our players and coaches, we have to protect 10.

"He can't be throwing off his back foot because he's getting hit. I thought there were two big plays where he couldn't see the open receiver because someone was hitting him. He couldn't see them. Now, I do think he showed that he can do that. There was a guy in his face on the big play to Hunter Henry.

"I think for the most part, he was accurate against A&M. Against Florida, I think the accuracy wasn't there because there were guys coming at him that were unblocked and there was also tighter coverage. That makes things difficult."

Bielema said Sunday is always a tough day, win or lose, since correcting mistakes are the first order of business.

"It's never an easy day," Bielema said. "It was very solemn yesterday. I was an unhappy guy. Sunday is never fun. I take it personally and we correct mistakes as players and coaches. I want to make sure the players know we are all in this together (as far as correcting mistakes).

"Then, we come back to a meeting and close the books on the last week. I usually make light of something in that meeting.

"Players are young and they move on more quickly than we do as coaches. I never had the opportunity to be in this situation as a head coach, but when we closed Coach (Hayden) Fry's career, it didn't end well. And in the first year of Kirk Ferentz, we won only one game. The next year only three.

"I did learn that if I'm down, the players are down. If I'm a negative Nellie, they are negative Nellie."

Bielema pointed out the highlights in the development of young players. He said he continues to see bright spots with players like Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams, Denver Kirkland, Dan Skipper, Hunter Henry and Martrell Spaight.

"I've said this 1,000 times, winning is a process," Bielema said. "It's a learned habit. We are going to keep working. It came down to execution in the fourth quarter. We executed in the first quarter at an extremely high level. We didn't in the fourth when it was still a 14-point game. We wore down and got away from execution in the fourth quarter."

The news on the injury front was better than first believed. Cornerback Will Hines, who tweeted he was out for the year, had good results on a Sunday surgery. Bielema said the doctors predicted he'd be "back in six weeks." With two open dates ahead, that could put Hines back on the field for the last two games.

"The surgery went well," Bielema said. "They put two plates in his arm and the doctors said they lined up just right."

Bielema said Hines had been playing well. His position will be an open battle this week in practice between Carroll Washington, Jared Collins and D. J. Dean. Dean had spent the bulk of his time at the nickel position, but will get work at cornerback to make it a three-way battle.

"I think Will and Tevin have been doing a nice job," Bielema said. "There are two plays that Tevin wishes he'd have back, but he's done some good things."

Also on the injury report, center Travis Swanson is expected to play this week after sustaining a knee injury Saturday night.

"Travis was a little tender Sunday when we first saw him, but he was moving around better later in the day," Bielema said. "I saw him today and he's made more progress. We may limit him Tuesday, but he'll be ready Saturday.

"Jonathan Williams got a little dinged up during the game, but he'll be fine, no problem. Hunter Henry took a hit right on the spot that he'd injured earlier in the year."

Bielema was asked about the difficulty of the current schedule with four ranked teams in a row. Has he ever faced anything like it?

"Never, not four in a row," he said. "We had two in-a-row before (at Wisconsin). The third week was a bye and we would have had seven players that wouldn't have played that week."

The eight-game stretch without a bye to open the season has been focused in training before the season.

"We talked about our eight-week training in the winter and we had eight straight in the summer," Bielema said. "We talked about how to hydrate and recover, some things they hadn't done in the past and how it would prepare them for this schedule. We told them that it's important what you do in week five for how you will be in week eight. They've done very well.

"Overall, I can't find fault with effort. There may be some plays here and there, but I think they've played hard."

Bielema was asked about comments during the game from a sideline reporter about "losing confidence." He wasn't sure where that came from, other than he may have said something about the pick six causing a letdown.

"I felt like we were very confident coming onto the field after halftime," Bielema said. "I don't remember saying anything about our confidence."

Bielema said there were too many penalties. There were eight to move the season total to 29. He said to put that in perspective, the least penalized team in the league has 23.

"We had four procedure penalties that were directly related to crowd noise," he said. "Jonathan Williams loves to compete and he got one after a guy pulled him out of the pile. That's a case of the second guy getting the penalty. He can't do that. We had a penalty on an extra point where someone in the defensive line barked something. There are some things to clean up."

Bielema said there has been improvement at linebacker, somewhat tied to a surprise. Jarrett Lake moved to middle linebacker during the Texas A&M game and that has solidified the three-man position.

"I think we had our best three linebackers on the field (against Florida)," Bielema said. "We have dabbled with different combinations. Never in a million years did I think we'd put Lake at mike linebacker.

"You saw some highlights as far as athleticism with Martrell Spaight out there. There are some things to get excited about at linebacker."

The penalty for fair catch interference came up again. Bielema emphasized again that he knew it was the correct call.

"Because we talked about that exact rule in fall camp, a lot of our players knew it was correct on the sideline when it happened," Bielema said. "I thought it was a tremendous job of officiating by the back judge."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories