The following is a transcript of Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema on today's SEC Teleconference.
"Obviously a week to regroup from a tough couple of weeks here," Bielema said. "It's a chance for us to get better at a lot of things that have brought us down. We have to get a lot better at fundamentals, lot better at our schemes, our calls, our communication – things that are important to winning.
"I think our kids have started off the week good and we'll see where we can get today and tomorrow," Bielema added. "Then we will give them a little bit of time to get their legs back under them going into our Auburn week next week. Get a little jump on them this week as well.
"It is a big week in our program," Bielema continued. "An opportunity with four games left to do some things with this season that will put us in a positive direction. I'm excited for us to work."
Q: Specifically on offense, what do you see as ways as you guys get better?
Coach Bielema: "I think we have been able to run the football obviously in every game," Bielema said. "We have to hang onto it better, we have to be more efficient for all four quarters.
"But the area that could really help us out is if we can throw the ball effectively on first, second and third down," Bielema added. "I think everybody just to stats and where the quarterback delivery is, which are important factors.
"But every element of our passing game needs to improve from the call itself, to protection, to the execution to the delivery of the throw to the catch of the throw, to ball secrurity after the throw – those things all need to get better in a short amount of time," Bielema continued.
Q: You had talked about using Brandon Allen's legs as weapons to get first downs, but wondered after his shoulder injury if you guys inhibited him from doing so? Is that something that could add another element to your offense?
Coach Bielema: "Without a doubt. Any time you have a quarterback that can give you the element of getting a first down through his legs, it is a big, big deal.,br>
"I think when he first got back into it, there were probably reservations – not from us as coaches, but him as a player," Bielema added. "He just got back several weeks ahead of schedule and I know that he was really sore and wasnt quite hundred percent, but was in a position where the doctors felt good to let him go and he felt good.,
"But I think any player is going to be naturally hesitant when he comes back," Bielema continued.
Q: How has Travis Swanson responded physcially and mentally to the ordeal the team has gone through and the expectations that he had for this year?
Coach Bielema: "I think Travis is a tremendous competitor and is the same guy everyday. He has been one of our best leaders since we came here to where we stand today.rough and the expectations that he had for this year?
"In fact, yesterday at the end of practice we let our seniors kind of run the last two periods, kind of call plays offensively for the young kids and defensively let them make calls," Bielema said.
"It was kind of a time to let you hair down and hve some fun and enjoy the moment," Bielema continued. "He was one of the leaders in that catogory as well, too. I just think he has a tremendous upside and his best football is ahead of him.rough and the expectations that he had for this year?
"I know his pre-draft grade came back last year at the end of the season as sixth or seventh rounder or a possible free agent, but I saw an article last week that had him rated as the number one center in this year's draft," Bielema continued. "So he obviously he has made a huge stride and I think it is a great indication of what we can do with offensive lineman while we are here.
"I know that Travis has really improved his game in so many ways, but his mental approach, his character and his attitude are some of his strongest standpoints."
Q: What is your philosophy with special teams as you once had a special team coordinator one year at Wisconsin?
Coach Bielema: "You kind of play to the strengths of your staff. There are certain guys that have a background in special teams and some do not. Some have leadership abilities.
"What I have always enjoyed is when you have been able to run a unit for you and you see the ability that he has to be a coordinator," Bielema added. "One of the things that I loved at Wisconsin was that we had a lot of transition, but I was able to hire from within three times from assistant coaches to coordinators.
"Chris Ash, my defensive coordiantor here, his first role of coordinating was punt return coordinator," Bielema continued. "I got a chance to see him do that, which gave me the insight to know that he could be a good coordinator and bring him along that way.
"I think that is the way to do it, but also as a coach you are always trying to build on your strengths of your staff and for me this year we had a number of coaches with coordinator experience that have also been special teams coordinators," Bielema said.
"Joel Thomas runs our kickoff return, Taver Johnson runs our punt return, Coach (Randy) Shannon runs our kickoff coverage and Coach (Charlie) Partridge runs our punt unit," Bielema added. "As head coach, I coach on every one of those units so I am involved in the day-to-day gameplan, execution and teaching of a group on what their coaching techniques are. It is a fun way to stay involved."
Q: Has Travis Swanson played up to expecations even with the team's struggles?
Coach Bielema: "He has been one of the shining stars throughout. He did get dinged in that one (Florida) game and they were worried about him and his ability to return, but he came back in the same week and that some his resilence and his toughness.
"Once you get pass the college level and go to the NFL, one of the things they are intrigued with are guys that stay healthy, guys that have the ability to play through some pain," Bielema said. "I know it has been an issue in the past where guys may have had a long history of injury or maybe sit down and miss some time and that knocks them down on their draft status.
"I think Travis' resiliency has been proven to the test once again and for what he has done from game one to today there is no doubt," Bielema added. "Probably even this last game (with Alabama) he was even better than before because things were going so bad from an offensive standpoint, but he was a guy that was still putting people on their back.
"It's been great for us to have two true freshmen right next to him to let them – (guards) Dan (Skipper) and Denver (Kirkland) learn to see what it takes to compete at this level," Bielema said. "The way Travis is had been a true blessing."
Q: Swanson has started 40-plus games since he was a freshman. How impressive is that streak?
Coach Bielema: "That's the whole deal. To play in the middle of the offensive line, to be the center that is calling all of the shots, that type of streak speaks volumes to us. It's his consistent approach, the way he handles the game plan and his toughness overall.
"I think one of the truly biggest changes in his body dyanmics," Bielema added. "He is obviously a big kid, but the way he has physically changed his body has really put him in position to play through some difficult situations and play with a lot more base.
"He is so good at his pulls, his gap schemes where he can get out in space and stay high on some people as well as go low has been nothing but a blessing for him," Bielema continued.
Q: Notice that Byran Jones was wearing Robert Thomas' jersey number the other night. Curious whose idea that was and if it was going to continue the rest of the season.
Coach Bielema: "On that Saturday night when Robert was hurt, I was sitting on my couch watching more college football and obviously very upset because not only is Robert a great player, but is a great person and a team captain, very, very well-liked and a guy that was very well thought of in the locker room – offense, defense and special teams as well as by the coaching staff.
"It kind of popped into my mind that he has got a 98, which is eligible jersey so it means that anybody that handles the football can wear his jersey even though he played defensive line," Bielema added. "So I kind of came up with the idea and thought to honor him and would be a way to let him have some say in it and have coaches pick a guy every week.
"One of the first things I did was sit down with Robert on Tuesday after his surgery was say 'hey, I've got this idea – what do you think?'" Bielema continued. "He became very emotional as well as I did and loved the idea and wanted to have the first one go to Byran, which is one of his best friends and obviously plays the same position and is a guy that he loves to death.
"We'll rotate that through for the rest of the season," Bielema noted. "Hopefully it will give somebody more incentive that week to play in his honor knowing that he'll never get to play again for the Razorbacks."
Q: You hinted at possible player changes after the game. Is there anybody you think we maybe have not seen much of that needs to get more opportunities on the field.
Coach Bielema: "I specifically asked my coaches during the bye week here – where we are getting a lot of reps with our twos and threes and guys that haven't played – I want to know, especially if it is a junior or senior whose clock is winding down and he has only got a certain number of games left and only one game left here at Razorback Stadium...and how we handle the four games left determines if we have a fifth game or not.
"Sometimes people's attitude change or their ability to learn," Bielema continued. "They become a little bit faster or more physical when they know that clock is winding down.
"So I ask everybody within their position group to see if there is somebody that hasn't bought into the level that you want – maybe they need to learn it a little better, maybe they need bend a little better, maybe they need to be stronger (earlier) and revisit to make sure that they haven't done that.
"If so, let's get them involved and I don't care if it is as simple as putting them on PAT and field goal protection, as simple as KOR backside guard," Bielema added. "I don't care if it is starting gunner or left end on punt team. Do something to get their mind engaged and obviously some time that leads to some pretty special things."
Q: How much time will you spend on Auburn during the bye week?
Coach Bielema: "It is kind of a little bit of give and take. The bye week is a lot about getting yourself right. We came off five straight weeks of losses so it important for us to get ourselves right first. That is priority number one.
"Anytime we steal a few days – we want to go good-on-good, we want to do preparation work – but I think anybody in the world of college football that doesn't jump on their opponent cheats themselves," Bielema added. "It allows the kids to to focus in on them, gives them a little bit more preparation time not only this week, but next week and you want have to have the same time demand.
"We'll hit on them a little bit every day, but we have hit on them in the past going back to last spring and going back to fall camp," Bielema continued. "It is a very, very critical game for us, one that is very important – as they all are – but obviously this one is special on its own."
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