Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema's "Welcome to the SEC moment" seems to have been spread over a matter of weeks instead of one particular instance.
After getting a week off, the Razorbacks will head back into the gauntlet again this weekend when they host No. 8 Auburn (7-1, 3-1) Saturday at 5 p.m.
Bielema spoke about the week off and his next foe on Wednesday's SEC Coaches Teleconference.
"It was a good bye week," Bielema said. "We had a chance to get some of our guys a little bit of rest and we got some great developmental work with our kids that we will be building the program with in the future.
"It was a chance to get a little bit of a head start on Auburn, a very good football team and another opportunity to play a ranked opponent – our fifth straight," Bielema added. "It is a very, very tough task.
"I think they run the ball very, very well and they throw the ball in rhythm and on time in the place they want to throw it in," Bielema continued. "They have a group of players that are playing very, very hard and for four quarters.
"The good news is that I think our kids have understood what we are trying to do, have bought in to what we've got a little bit more," Bielema said. "We still don't have all of the right ammunition to fight the right fight, but we are getting closer on a daily basis and it has been a lot of fun."
The off-week was beneficial for several reasons according to Bielema.
"I think the big thing was obviously we had played eight straight weeks and (it) gave us a chance to get our legs back under us and to back off a little bit mentally and physically and be able to take a good resolve of what we've done – offense, defense and special teams," Bielema said.
"There obviously have been some things that have broken down, that have prohibited us from having a win," Bielema added. "But there have been some positive things - some kids playing their best football in week eight and they continue to improve.
"That's what we were looking for - maybe a couple of other guys that were not in the starting line up, some guys that could possibly give us something that we haven't had yet on film and some of those guys rose to the challenge," Bielema continued.
"With this next four games – the games that we are locked into playing – will obviously decide whether we have a chance to play in the postseason, but more importantly give us a good indication as coaches of what we have and what we need to recruit to and what we have for the future," Bielema related.
Bielema noted that he has played a lot of true freshmen and redshirt freshmen this season.
"I think – if I am not mistaken – we have had nine or 10 true freshmen and nine to 10 redshirt freshmen who obviously have not played because they redshirted last year," Bielema said. "So to play close to 20 of those freshmen is something that you are very excited about because you know the way they are going to get trained, the way they are going to get coached.
"On the same account, one of the things that we stressed with this being our seniors last game here in Razorback Stadium is this year has been about our seniors and paying them the respect and trying to get them to a year that they can hold their head high and know that they have improved," Bielema added.
"Some of those guys have not only been our best players on the field, but our best leaders," Bielema continued. "It is a little bit of marrying the old with the new and it is a fun part to be a part of. Obviously not the losing – that hurts – but to see the growth and development of these guys is what gets you excited and keeps the body going."
Bielema also talked about the game that defensive end Trey Flowers had in the Razorbacks' win at Auburn last season.
"It definitely flashes each time Trey takes the field," Bielema said. "He is a kid that plays with tremendous upside and with a great motor, but this game in particular we saw him play and compete.
"The other thing that jumps out at you is that as a player this year he has more power, more strength, more of a pass rush," Bielema added. "He has always been a powerful guy that has been able to get off blocks, but he has brought a new element to the game that I think is going to continue to grow here through the next few weeks."
Bielema lauded Flowers off the field as well.
"I think a guy that has the tools like Trey does they will find a spot for him, but the more that we can increase his mass, his size and durability," Bielema said.
"But the part that has been intriguing is as good a football player as he is, he is an exceptional student – an engineering major that has got close to a 4.0 GPA," Bielema added. "He can handle a lot of things that your normal players can't, the nuances of the game, some special calls, some special keys that he can pick up on because he is so intelligent.
"Combine that with his athletic ability and his heart and that is a very special combination," Bielema continued.
• • •
Bielema was also asked about "tape-gate," a flap that developed when he said that Auburn did not send a complete scouting tape to Arkansas as normal.
"I heard back from them (the SEC) that day," Bielema said. "Obviously the issue is being handled by the SEC and that's about all I can say.
"Really other than the conversations we had on Monday, I haven't had anything back yesterday or today except correspondence from the league office and that is all we can talk about," Bielema added.
He was asked if he had talked to Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn or anyone on his staff.
"Myself no," Bielema said. "People on our staff. Again, all that is we notified the SEC on Monday morning when it came up. That's the protocol that I was instructed to do and that's where it led."
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