Arkansas coach Bret Bielema knows there is criticism of quarterback Brandon Allen, but it's not coming from within the football offices.
"You know the only criticism is probably coming from our fan base and the media," Bielema said Monday in his regular media briefing. "There is no criticism coming from the coaches.
"We see what he goes through. We know what he's dealing with. In my opinion he has probably shown me as much - to assure me that he is for sure the best player for the job right now. Any criticism he gets is just people that don't have knowledge."
Allen missed time in the first half because of a gash to his shin, one that required 14 staples to close. During his time out, backup quarterback AJ Derby threw an interception and lost a center exchange to help Auburn build a lead in a 35-17 victory.
Arkansas has lost six straight games. There have been two seven-game losing streaks in school history. The first covered the last six games of the Otis Douglas coaching era (1951) and the first game of the Boyden Wyatt era (1952). The 1990 Hogs coached by Jack Crowe lost seven straight before winning the season finale against SMU.
Bielema was asked if he was worried if the team's struggles might have long-term effects on Allen.
"No, because you did see the way he responds," Bielema said. "I think Brandon is a very tough kid. He's a coach's son so he has had to deal with it.
"To be able to have that background, his dad has been in this business and understands the highs and lows and he saw it as a young man growing up. So I think that helps him a great deal.
"And I think just his personality, his bravado, and to see a kid have that kind of cut on Saturday and to come back and you couple that with the shoulder injury that he has had - obviously AJ came in and had his struggles so again to walk on the campus last year and have two scholarship quarterbacks back and be in the position we are in it's just another sign of us trying to get stronger."
Bielema said the injury situation is good this week. Alex Collins sustained a slight injury late in the game, but there were no problems there or anywhere else on Sunday.
"Well, we came out of the game pretty healthy," Bielema said. "Sunday was a good day, not a lot of surprise injuries. Obviously (Allen) was a little bit sore. That gash was pretty deep and pretty sore on Sunday but should be good for Tuesday's practice. Nobody else from the game should be limited in any way. Just some guys banged up but nothing that will keep people out of playing on Saturday."
Much of the rest of the media briefing dealt with linebacker play, particularly true freshman Brooks Ellis making his first start at middle linebacker.
"Brooks Ellis , you know, he is a guy I hadn't made specific comments to but we thought moving him into the starting lineup," Bielema said of his comments last week about possible lineup changes.
"That was by far our best game as of late to line up and just get people in the right positions and get the call. They had some motions where they change the strength of the backfield and we adjusted to that very, very well."
Bielema detailed the first time he saw tape of Ellis, the Fayetteville product.
"Brooksy, going back to when I first came here in December, one of the - the first or second night I was here I was poring through the recruiting film," Bielema said. "I wanted to watch all the guys and I kind of saved him for last, just because I'm a linebacker coach by nature and have watched and evaluated a lot of linebackers.
"When I put on his film I saw a guy that could run, he was explosive, seemed to carry all the things on film that you would get excited about as a linebacker and then to get a chance to visit with him and learn a little about his family background and his history here, it just got you excited.
"Then, getting into fall camp you see certain things that you believe he's going to play and play early. We decided, I thought he'd be a starter.
"Just like when we started Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland, I don't think we would be where we're at right now with them if we'd started them in game one. it may sound silly to say that, but as a head coach I learned if you throw someone in before their time, it's not going to go well. So we wanted to wait for those two.
"Same thing for Brooksy. If we threw him in there too early, I think he might have gone through setbacks before advancements. We thought he was great, in a good position mentally, so we put him in there during the bye week and he got two weeks of practice and did really, really well."
The 3-6 start leaves the Hogs with only way to become bowl eligible, win out. But Bielema said the bowl picture wasn't part of his motivation with the team. He said it centers on player development.
"I didn't really play to that," Bielema said."I haven't talked about bowls or anything like that. The mission is just to try to improve. For us right now as a program we are trying to get better every week. Trying to get younger players to be better, trying to get our better players to play their best ball, trying to correct Saturday's mistakes and move forward.
"There were four basic areas that I look at every week. And the arrow was up on all four of those for the first time on a Friday night as I sat in my room and reflected on the week. I thought our preparation was better than it had been in a long time. I thought our commitment to academics and the social behavior had been better than it had been and I just thought football was up. So I am excited. I think it's going in the right direction.
"You would like to end the season with some high notes. On the same account, the neat thing about the travel these last three games it's a 70-man travel roster because we are playing at Little Rock and we have got two away games. So if we go over there with 40 people that's what I am going on. I am going over there with people that won to win a game and have showed me they are willing to do things the way we need to have them done."
Bielema was asked if there was consideration now to moving Korliss Marshall back to safety since he's not getting carries at running back behind Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins.
"Right now he's our no. 3 tailback," Bielema said. "I don't see it being as stocked as maybe you do. Really the only two guys getting reps have been Alex and J-Will. The way they're running the ball, I'd have a hard time pulling either one of those out.
"Korliss has got a limited, he doesn't have the full breadth of the tailback position as those two do. But he's definitely our third-best option. You saw on that kickoff return. I know he's dying to get back to safety and we're trying to work with him on that.
"He works over there at certain times during the day. I've been a head coach who really believes in letting kids play where they want to play, but out of necessity he had to play tailback for us and bless his heart for doing it because he's done a really good job."
Will Marshall go back to safety in the spring?
"Yeah, unless something dramatically changes he'll move back to," Bielema said, "and during the bye week last week he worked safety and during the bye week this coming week he'll work safety again."
Bielema was asked about the review of the non-touchdown catch by Javontee Herndon on the first series of the game. What constitutes a touchdown catch and is it different from a catch short of the goal line?
"You want to pay the fine?" Bielema said, in reference to criticism of officials.
"Everybody gets frustrated," he said. "I will say this. Without a doubt, the officials in this conference are more consistent than any other league I've been in at this point. You know, I'll always send in a couple plays that show certain things that I don't agree with.
"I only sent in four this week. That's probably about norm. Sometimes I send in two, sometimes I send in six. That's one I just wanted definition of because he took a couple steps, but the ball is a little bit loose on the bottom side, which is what they did. I think that is one though, that I think if that's called a touchdown on the field, I don't think it gets overturned.
"That just shows you how critical the on-the-field call is, because I think that one when it goes to the booth, if it had been the other way, I don't think it gets flipped, to be quite honest."
Bielema was asked if the non-TD catch was one he sent in to the SEC office.
"You know what, I didn't even send that one in because I already know what the response will be. I sent in, what did I send in, well the onside," Bielema said. "(Jeremy) Sprinkle's legal by about a yard and a half, and I feel bad because I jumped him pretty good, made an apology.
"That's one thing I've learned as a coach when something happens don't really because you could be wrong come Sunday, and I kind of ... At first, I grabbed ... I heard 3 and I thought it was Korliss, so I let Korliss and he quickly said, ‘No, no, it was Sprinkle.'
"They could probably tell by the color I was at that point that I wasn't happy. But we stressed and worked it, and that's just a classic, you know, you talk about turnovers.
"That onside hits that kid in the leg like drills him. There's so many times when you see that ball go 15 different directions expect for right in front of him. It gets frustrating, but on the same accounts, it's also what brings you back. We've all been a part of it.
"The one thing that I have loved, and I told this to our coaches yesterday, if we weren't doing things right, if we didn't have kids believing, if we didn't have kids believing in what we were saying, we'd be having problems right now. We'd have kids erupting on the sideline , we'd have kids that are being problems in the classroom or doing some things that are just really disruptive to what's going on.
"And everybody just keeps humming, everybody just keeps sawing wood, everybody just keeps moving themselves in the right path. Senior day was not easy. I had ... Some of those kids are really hard to walk out that door, knowing that I've only got three games left with them because they're really special human beings.
"If that feeling wasn't going on, we'd be having problems. It's just going to get better. I know it doesn't do anybody any good right now, but it's going to get better in short fashion."
Bielema Not Criticizing Allen
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