Bret Bielema's opening remarks were about the loss of Robert Thomas for the Alabama game, then noting that he hopes the Razorbacks to rally around the loss of one of their best players.
"We are excited to play the number one team, a team that has dominated the world of college football in the last few years," said Bielema, the Arkansas head coach. "Sadly, we won't have Robert Thomas. He's lost for the remainder of the season. He' s had a tremendous impact to our team. Hopefully, the kids rally around him and we have better results."
The Hogs are 3-4 after four straight losses. They have not scored in the fourth quarter in the last four games and ran only 37 plays in a 52-7 loss to South Carolina. The game Saturday at Tuscaloosa starts at 6 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.
The first questions asked to Bielema Wednesday at the SEC teleconference concerned time of possession and turnover margin, both strong cornerstones in his coaching philosophy. Are those key areas for the Hogs to turn around the losing?
"I think it's paramount," he said. "Turnover margin, in my opinion, has been very important both in my time as head coach and as a defensive coordinator. We stress and emphasize that. You have to avoid them, and you have to create turnovers on defense. You have to tackle the football, you have to strip it and when you have a chance to tackle the ball carrier from behind, you have to take a swing at it.
"Time of possession, it's important. How you monopolize the clock and keep the chains moving is a big part of what we believe as coaches."
Bielema was asked about the Alabama offense.
"They are big up front and fast," he said. "They are extremely big. They are physical, fast. The offensive line uses hands and feet. People lose sight of how well they keep their feet going and how involved they are with four tight ends they list on the depth chart."
There were also questions about running backs T. J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake.
"(Yeldon) has extremely good vision," Bielema said. "He hits the hole and there are yards after contact. (Drake) is physical and keeps his legs moving. Both of them get four to eight yards. They take advantage of big holes created by their line and mis-fits by the defense.
"The people around them understand the run game. It changes from week to week as far as what they do. What they did against Texas A&M was different than what they did against Kentucky. They have an offensive line that makes you crowd the line of scrimmage and then they hit you with those receivers.
"The two backs, they do have tendencies as far as what plays they run with them. Our defensive coordinator has to be aware of who is in the game, but they are so good at the other positions that if you concentrate heavily on the running backs, the receivers are going to run free."
Bielema said the Hogs would shuffle the defensive line slightly with Thomas out. Horace Arkadie and Taiwan Johnson would get more time as backups with Alabama native Darius Philon moving into the starting lineup. Bielema is hopeful that starting tackle Byran Jones would have step up with his best friend out.
"Byran has obviously played a lot of football," Bielema said. "He's fun to be around. Playing at Arkansas means a lot to him. Robert is his closest friend and I'm sure Byran will play his best game.
"Darius has been playing more and more since about the fourth game. He's explosive with the big play and has been more consistent. DeMarcus Hodge has played very physical in the last two games.
"Taiwan and Horace are going to play a little more minutes as far as backups now."
Bielema: TOs, TOP Important
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