Full of Opinions

Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema touches on a variety of subject during Wednesday's SEC Football Coaches Teleconference, including comments made about him by former Auburn head coach Pat Dye, his team's upcoming game at Ole Miss and the status of some of his linebackers.

It didn't take long on Wednesday's SEC Football Coaches Teleconference for Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema to field questions about former Auburn head coach Pat Dye's Monday comments at the Knoxville Quarterbacks Club that, "You know, Bielema at Arkansas, you know, needs to keep his mouth shut."

In fact, it was the first question out of the box for Bielema, whose Razorbacks (3-6, 0-5) visit Ole Miss (5-3, 2-3) on Saturday at 11:21 a.m.

"I think the one thing that I have learned as a head coach as you have had success and you go through failure, you just worry about your job and what you are doing," Bielema said. "Everybody is entitled to their opinion. I have a feeling about opinions, but I will keep those to myself."

Dye's full comment was: "You know, Bielema at Arkansas, you know, he needs to keep his mouth shut," Dye said, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. "I don't know what it is. He wants to slow the game down, he wants to do this, he wants to do this, he wants to do that…. But anyway, they came out in the swinging gate on a field goal formation and ended up throwing for a first down at the 1-yard line. They didn't score cause we held them four downs at the 1-yard line."

Actually, Arkansas did score on the next play. It was actually earlier in the game that Auburn held the Razorbacks out of the end zone at the 1.

Dye has been very vocal lately with his opinions and has brought about controversy for saying that former U.S. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice should not be on the College Football Playoff selection committee.

"All she knows about football is what somebody told her," Dye said during an interview on Birmingham radio station WJOX-FM on Oct. 7. "Or what she read in a book, or what she saw on television. To understand football, you've got to play with your hand in the dirt."

Dye even brought about hard feelings in his own backyard at the same Knoxville Quarterbacks Club meeting when he called Auburn's 2012 quarterbacks – one of them former Shiloh Christian star Kiehl Frazier – "cowards" for their play during a season in which the Tigers went 3-9 overall and 0-8 in SEC action.

"Obviously Coach (Dye) had a lot of success, but everybody is entitled to their opinion and I guess everybody is entitled to reach out and say it," Bielema said. "I know he has had a couple of them lately that have been great.

"...Coaches are coaches and obviously however you interpret what people say or do is your own opinion, but I guess I am just worried about the job that I am doing here," Bielema added.

Ole Miss is coming off an open date after posting a 59-14 win over Idaho – coached by former Arkansas assistant Paul Petrino – back on Oct. 26 and a 27-24 upset of LSU the previous week.

The Rebels, who won at Texas 44-23 earlier this season, have conference losses at Alabama (26-0), Texas A&M (41-38) and at Auburn (30-22) with conference wins at Vanderbilt (39-35) and at home over LSU.

It is the first time in six weeks that the Razorbacks – who are riding a six-game losing skid – will not be facing a top 25 team.

"Excited to go on the road and face an Ole Miss team that has obviously done a lot of really good things," Bielema said. "I thought our guys made some steps last week during our bye week in the right direction and continue to build things up. We are trying to get on the right track with some wins, but I am very, very pleased with some of their progress.

"It's just that we do so many different things that take away from a successful day overall that we have just got to eradicate – turnovers, non-scoring trips down in the red zone, some things defensively to give up big plays," Bielema added. "We just need to get those eliminated and continue to recruit and improve our talent and we will get to where we need to be sooner than later."

The game will kickoff early and be broadcast on SEC TV. Kickoff is at 11:21 a.m.

"I'm a little bit torn here," Bielema said of the early start. "In the SEC, these stadiums a lot of times – for example when we were at Florida, you have about an hour drive to get to the stadium and the same here (this weekend). We are staying in Memphis and have an hour or hour and 10-minute drive. When you throw that in on the front end of also an early kickoff, it leads to a really early morning."

Arkansas players will have a wake up call at 6 a.m. and leave Memphis at around 7:45.

"This is our third one so our kids are a little bit more well-versed, but that is probably the only thing that jumps out to you," Bielema added. "The location of some of these universities and the towns that are around them, it is just not real convenient for the visiting team to have a hotel that is a reasonable driving distance. That's a challenge and obviously it is an early game, but that is not anything that we can't overcome. I think our kids will be locked in and we have a plan of attack for Saturday morning so I think our kids will enjoy it."

Arkansas is at a minus-12 when it comes to turnover margin this season.

"The one part that we have tried to preach since we got here is ball security and obviously we are not doing a good enough job getting that across," Bielema said. "They have kind of happened in a variety of different ways. Two, maybe three have been on special teams and the rest have come through the air or a fumble.

"I think on Saturday – case in point – we lost one on the exchange with the quarterback when he didn't get it and it was a key point in the game," Bielema added. "Then in the third quarter we score and got our team some momentum and we are going in the right direction and they have a quarterback that went around our right side, a guy made a nice strip on the ball and the ball is laying on the ground. We have three guys all around it, they have one and they are able to recover it.

"Sometimes that ball bounces the wrong way and you have to create your own opportunities, but when that worm turns you will probably see a significant change in the turnover margin as well," Bielema added.

Bielema was asked about a trio of linebackers – true freshman Brooks Ellis and sophomores A.J. Turner and Otha Peters.

Ellis got his first start last week as a middle linebacker as the Razorback coaches have tried to bring him along slowly.

"I think the great thing about Brooksie is even since fall camp he has kind of gone through the transitional development," Bielema said. "He was doing really, really good in his movement and reaction and then as the package got a little bit bigger, it got a little bit gray for him – clouded a little bit.

"We allowed him to work himself through it," Bielema added. "I really thought he was going to be a starter for us this year. Didn't think it would take as long as it did, but I am glad that we have progressed him at the right rate.

"It's kind of like A.J and Otha," Bielema continued. "Those guys played last year, but they will be the first to tell you that they didn't even know what call they were in. They were just kind of running on the field. We don't want to put a freshman out there just to throw them to the wolves. We want to be able to put them in a position to have success.

"Brooks played fairly well (last Saturday)" Bielema said. "The only things that got him confused were new things. As his football resume, as his knowledge and quick decisions increase, he'll get better and better. He practices so hard and has such an amount of pride. The great news is he is only a true freshman and will get better every day."

Turner and Peters both played last season as true freshmen and in fact started near the end of the season, but both have battled injuries this season.

"A.J. - and I don't know if it was the second or third week of camp – he had surgery again," Bielema said. "He had another issue where he had to have surgery. So we've had the opportunity to redshirt him and redshirt him the entire year. We really had no plans for him to play.

"Otha, we were excited about," Bielema added. "He was a kid that was doing everything we asked and had a nice spring and did a nice job during the summer. Unfortunately he broke his arm...and it was a four-to-six week rehab. He came back earlier than they had expected and has played a little bit for us, but unfortunately for us has not been able to fully maximize as a healthy linebacker.

"He is a guy that we are very excited about and good days are in front of him," Bielema continued.

He was asked to comment on message board chatter that one or both might be transferring.

"I expect to have everybody that is on our roster now back with us," Bielema said. "I think during the out of season you don't know where that is going to go, especially with guys. I don't for see that happening, but on the same account there is always going to be transition."

Bielema was also asked about how long it would take for him to get to offensive line play like he had during his tenure at Wisconsin.

"It wasn't all fourth and fifth year guys and the key for us is to recruit the right type of guys," Bielema said. "I could tell during our first practice – or even our first workout – when the O-line was working that we had some areas in development of our own players, but recruiting. Case in point is that we have two guards that are true freshmen that are as good as anybody on our offensive line except for Travis Swanson, our center.

"They are doing what we ask them to do and the key there – we signed three offensive linemen last year, actually four and two of the four are starting as true freshmen – and if we can bat that same percentage again I think we will get it turned quicker than other people might think," Bielema added. "There are a number of guys like Cordale Boyd, a guy like Austin Beck – guys with another year in our program with what we are doing with Ben Herbert in the weight room to help our student athletes that can help us sooner than later."

Bret Bielema

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