There was good news on the injury report, Bret Bielema said Wednesday as he addressed the media during the open week for the Arkansas football team, struggling in a five-game losing streak in the first year under the new head coach.
Cornerback Will Hines is healing as projected by doctors after sustaining a broken arm during the Florida game. Surgery to apply a plate has done it's job and X-rays this week revealed that the break is a solid heal. Hines has returned to practice, with an air cast.
"We got a little bit healthier with Will back," Bielema said. "Right now, we expect him back for the final two conference games of the year."
Healing the mental wounds -- along with recruiting -- has been front and center as the Hogs try to snap out of what Bielema called "a fog" around the program. He said it's done him some good to focus on recruiting and he said it also did the team some good to focus on development of some younger players with scrimmages during the week.
Bielema said he enjoyed spending time calling recruits, including most of the committed players. He said that was "fun." He said he also enjoyed visiting with high school coaches as he took advantage of a donor jet to make some trips.
"We can't talk to recruits (on the road), but we can visit with coaches and we got a great reception this week," Bielema said. "It was good for me to get out on the road. I did spend a lot of time calling recruits. I think I got through to about three/fourths of them this week."
"I called our players up and they thought practice was done," Bielema said. "I asked if they wanted to watch the younger guys play some American football. They started yelling and whooping.
"De'Andre Coley whacked someone," Bielema said. "It was a great hit, a great explosion. You would have thought the Super Bowl had been won. It was a nice hit, but I told them it was just second-and-8."
Bielema said there were some other highlights, including the play of Korliss Marshall at safety. Coley is also a safety.
"We had some nice plays by some redshirt wide receivers," Bielema said. "You saw Austin Allen and Duwop Mitchell do some things at quarterback. Tevin Beanum has made a huge jump. He can hardly recognize him."
As for other youngsters, Bielema praised cornerback D. J. Dean and linebacker Brooks Ellis. He said Ellis has had his best week of practice.
Bielema was asked about moving young players into the lineup. He said there has been discussion about evaluation of senior and junior performances.
"I did tell our players after the game and to our coaches on Tuesday that there comes a time that ground hog day is not entertaining," Bielema said. "I think when you evaluate where we are, you can win the last four games and you'd have a winning record and be bowl eligible. That's not do or die.
"To me, the number one reason is to beat Auburn and our pride. There have been some swings at our pride. Pride is the number one thing right now."
As for the seniors, Bielema said he wouldn't say it would be a "full scale youth movement." But by the same token, if there are older players that aren't getting results "you would expect someone else to get an opportunity."
Bielema met with seniors during a luncheon on Tuesday. He said that his support for them has never wavered.
"I came here talking about winning now," he said. "I told them that I remembered how excited they were about that."
There were promises made this week not to forget the seniors. That includes some special events down the stretch, including a new way to honor them on senior day, next week against Auburn. Players would be introduced one by one, then the senior captains would be introduced at the end.
"We are going to give them their moment," Bielema said, "with a steady crescendo. There will be some things I stole from some of my other stops. Then, on Dec. 13, we are going to have a senior banquet, something that hasn't been done here, to honor them."
There were several questions about style of play, including pointed questions about the spread. Bielema said he "would not flinch." By that, he will stick to core beliefs about style of play. Bielema said problems happen when coaches begin to make changes to their core beliefs.
"You flinch and you start going from pro to spread, or making changes. I know what I'm going to do."
Bielema was ready when spread questions arose.
"The spread?" Bielema said. "Who is the number one rushing team in the conference? Auburn. Perfect. It doesn't matter what offense you run, it's about the team that runs the ball. Texas A&M, they are known for throwing it around, but what won the game with us? The run.
"My basic core philosophy is to run the ball and stop the run. I had an abrasive meeting with my coaches just now. I can't get people to understand that if you can't run the ball and you can't stop the run, you can't win games."
Bielema said one of the good things for pro style offenses is the way the Phildelphia Eagles are struggling with the spread.
"The failure of the Eagles right now is one of the greatest things," he said. "You look at what they do (with quarterbacks), it shortens your career. I think over the course of time, pro style offenses are going to win out."
Bielema said he will continue to be positive with players.
"It's in your voice, your demeanor," he said. "You can put yourself in a positive mood. Maybe you need to read a comic book. (Losing games) is not what I signed up for. It's not what makes me happy. But I must put our players in a positive position."
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