s this the week it breaks loose for Arkansas? That's sort of the question that was asked Bret Bielema after he pronounced the Razorbacks ready after their last on-campus practice Thursday before a trip to Ole Miss. Arkansas meets the Rebels at 11:21 a.m. Saturday in Oxford.
Bielema has said a couple of times over the last week that the Hogs might be close to popping free of the losing streak that has now stretched to six games. How does he know that?
"There are three things," the Arkansas coach said. "It's about the execution. It's so much more crisp. The detail is better. There is much less verbiage. By that I mean, the coaches are not having to talk as much.
"I see that we are cleaner (in the passing game). The slants, the picks, the posts, they are all cleaner. We don't have guys popping free (as far as protection) that destroy things.
"Then, all the academics, the weight room work, it all adds up. All the arrows are up."
Bielema said the Hogs had a good week of preparation for Ole Miss.
"Our guys took the highs from last week and built upon them," he said. "The lows, they tried to correct. I feel we are closer. I can't say it's going to happen on Saturday, but we are closer.
"We are in good health. Brandon Allen, we had concern for that lower leg wound. But it's good and he was able to get all the work in. We have some sniffles, colds, coughs, but we'll be fine for the game."
Bielema said cornerback Will Hines has not been cleared for games, but he's back working with the team. He worked on the scout team this week. Hines sustained a broken arm that was repaired by surgery after the Florida game. He should be able to play the last two weeks.
The Arkansas coach has been impressed by the play of Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace.
"I watched a couple of games last year and I enjoyed watching the kid," Bielema said. "He loves the game. They also have two very good -- really all of their wide receivers are good -- but (Donte Moncrief and Laquon Treadwell) stand out."
Bielema said he didn't know background on Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze until taking the job, but now does.
"I boned up on him and learned he was a high school coach," Bielema said. "I didn't have much background before I got here. I didn't know he coached in high school."
That was in response to Freeze's version of the spread, as compared to the one Gus Malzahn runs at Auburn.
"It's a fast tempo, but it's not a lot (similar) after that," Bielema said. "It is similar in formation, but the passing game is much different. Bo Wallace does some more things than the Auburn quarterback."
Bielema was asked about the play of middle linebacker Brooks Ellis, making his second straight start.
"I wish we had done it sooner," Bielema said. "You always want to get your best players out there and as far as linebacker, it has enabled us to do that with Jarrett Lake and Braylon Mitchell."
Lake moved from middle linebacker to weakside, his spot in the spring and preseason when he was considered one of the team's top defensive playmakers. Mitchell moved to the strongside to play more in space, his strength.
"We wanted to just let Lake play (and not have to think)," Bielema said. "He's athletic and can make plays. He's a good role player at that position. Braylon, we probably didn't plan to play as much base last year but when we did you saw that he made a lot of tackles."
Bielema said Martrell Spaight has had a good week of practice as the backup for Ellis at middle linebacker and on special teams.
"He's been limited on the field just because of accountability," Bielema said. "But I think he's more engaged and is having a good week with special teams."
Bielema was asked when the turnover ratio might turn around. The Hogs are among the worst in the nation.
"If someone is working harder on that, I want them to show me," Bielema said. "I think it's about making big hits. We have a big hit video that we show the team on Saturday morning. I get to preview that and saw it today. In it, you will see the hit we made on the Auburn quarterback and we had three guys standing right there and it bounces right back to them.
"I will say that I've been in it long enough that I know that it turns around. Some days it will bounce your way."
Maybe it is this week at Ole Miss. As Bielema said, the Hogs might be close.
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