Starting From The Bottom

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema - who is hitting the recruiting trail with his staff this week - talks about his message to the players and the fans after an embarrassing couple of weeks that have seen the Razorbacks give up 104 unanswered points.

It's a simple line from a recent hit song – "Started from the bottom, now the whole team here."

  After giving up 104 unanswered points to South Carolina and Alabama, there's little doubt that Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and his staff will be starting from the bottom when they hit the practice field on Tuesday.

  It's certainly arguable heading into this bye week that Arkansas' play on the field – which now has it riding an eight-game SEC losing streak over the last two years - has the program near or at the very bottom of the 14-team league.

  So how do they get back to "here" – competitive again in the SEC as they certainly were back in 2010 and 2011?

Certainly Alabama – the two-time defending national champion and the top team in the country right now – is setting the bar for where Arkansas wants to get.

"We obviously made them look really good," Bielema said. "They are a good football team. On film, what jumps out to you right away is how big they are, how quick they are.

"They are at a place that we definitely strive to be and we just aren't in that league yet," Bielema added. "I appreciate the prep that they have, but the biggest jump we need to have right now is consistency.

"We will go through a winter program, a strength and conditioning (program) that as much bulk, size and mass as we added (last winter) – we'll be able to double that and we'll be able to recruit to a certain level," Bielema continued.

"But for us the next four games we have on our schedule, to have a opportunity to have a chance to try and get to postseason play, to put ourselves in position to get better as a football program, we have just got to do a lot of things in a hurry in the bye week."

There is no doubt that the players on hand have been beaten down from the past two seasons according to Bielema, whose staff will spend several days on the recruiting trail this week.

"Without a doubt," Bielema said. "As a human being, you are a product of what you have witnessed, what you have seen. But it's a behavior that we as coaches just can't tolerate and we just have to eradicate.

"A lot of guys have talked about it, but until the culture changes – and it might take one play, it might take one quarter for someone to rise above it," Bielema continued, "but until that happens a lot of these same things are going to happen."

Asked about his message to a fan base that has been beaten down as well, Bielema offered up the following.

"I know the fan base lives and dies with every play, every turnover, every score, every pulse," Bielema said. "I know it is frustrating. I know the biggest thing is – just like our players – they have to keep the faith.

"One of the great things that excited me about the state of Arkansas is its tremendous pride everywhere I have been," Bielema added. "They support the Razorbacks.

"I know they get frustrated and as the head coach I am very frustrated," Bielema continued. "Just be positive to help us in recruiting.

"One of the great things that always comes up with all if our recruits is how passionate the Arkansas Razorback fan base is," Bielema said, "so the more passion and love they can show the recruits and potential help out there, the better off all of us will be."

Bielema mentioned the players having to have a leap of faith immediately after the loss to Alabama.

  "Guys that survive this, guys that move forward with us will be rewarded," Bielema said. "I don't know if it is going to come next week or come a month from now or a year from now, but it is going to take a leap of faith."

Arkansas' current players certainly have to get better both mentally and physically.

  "There are definitely physical breakdowns on our football team and we will move forward and do things there," Bielema said. "…But there are a lot of things through the ears that have a direct impact on the game that can be easily corrected.

  "It is just this muck that we have got to get out of," Bielema added. "We have to respect it, have 11 guys leave the huddle with the same plan."

  Arkansas has an open date this week before hosting Auburn, whose upset of Texas A&M vaulted it to No. 11 in the latest Associated Press poll.

  "It's been tough row, but we knew it when we signed up for this schedule," Bielema said. "Obviously it is what it is. The SEC is a very competitive market.

  "To get the bye week and get ourselves back a little bit healthy and to just mentally take a breath of fresh air and see where we are – it is going to be a good work week for our guys," Bielema added. "There are some many things that we need to get fundamentally better at – offense, defense…tackling."

  With the open date this week, Razorback coaches have already hit the recruiting trail on Sunday.

  "We'll work in recruiting a lot next week," Bielema said after practice on Thursday. "It's fall break on campus, the first we've had here.

  "Monday, our players will work with the strength and conditioning staff, lifting," Bielema added. "My staff -- with me, my two coordinators and seven assistants on the road.

  "We'll be back on Tuesday and Wednesday for practice," Bielema added. "Then, we'll be back on the road Thursday night and all day Friday.

  "I can't say anything to recruits, but I'll see them and can evaluate," Bielema continued. "I definitely will go watch some of our top prospects."

  What will be the message?

  "It will be different for each one, but one thing that we can definitely talk about is opportunity to play early," Bielema said.

 

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