Monday Grid Update, 11/25

Tevin Mitchel rejoins team as Arkansas prepares for trip to Baton Rouge. Bret Bielema likes traditional uniforms, but knows players and recruits loved the grey the Hogs wore last week.

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema wants his staff to stay intact, cornerback Tevin Mitchel rejoined the team Sunday night after spending two days with his mother in a Little Rock hospital and defensive tackle Darius Philon played last week despite losing about 15 pounds to the flu.

Those were among the takeaways as Bielema and several assistant coaches met with the media Monday afternoon as they worked through a short week in preparation for a 1:30 p.m. Saturday game with LSU.

Bielema was asked about staff composition moving forward. He said there would be evaluations, but they wouldn't come until after a recruiting period that follows the end of the season after the LSU game on Friday.

"I've never been in this situation, no bowl," Bielema said. "So what we'll have is two weeks of live recruiting and that's what we'll concentrate on.

"Then there will be three weeks of dead period. At that time, I'll ask my coaches to fill out a packet and we'll go over it. They'll have eight days off for Christmas.

"I think this staff grew, they adjusted to what our players could do. That's always what you want to do, find out what your players can do and adjust.

"I hope we don't have any staff changes. I like this group."

Bielema was asked about a wide-range of topics, including the failed fake punt, grey uniforms and the impact they make on recruiting, the fact his quarterback had his vehicle egged Saturday night and that he doesn't look at prospects for Arkansas in the SEC West moving forward as a "daunting" task.

"Sometimes you need a little mojo," Bielema said when asked about the failed fake punt in a 24-17 overtime loss to Mississippi State that seemed to give the visitors life. "I guess we've gone for it (on fake punts) four times. I hope we get to the point where we are good enough on offense and defense that we don't need that any more."

On the uniforms, Bielema said he's more about the traditional, but knows in today's world that players and recruits enjoy a change. When the four captains modeled the attire for the game at a meeting Thursday night of the travel squad, there was a roar from the players. He also said he got positive tweets from recruits and it was mentioned by recruits during Sunday night phone visits.

"I know for me, the whole grey thing, I'm like a lot of others, I have to take a deep breath," Bielema said. "But when our four captains came into the room wearing them, it was like Holy Heaven from everyone."

One thing he liked, no one within the team "leaked" the word that they were going to be worn.

"I know no one wants to hear this, but it's a huge, huge deal in recruiting," he said. "It helps us."

Bielema said next year's uniforms would be more traditional.

"I had a hand in them," he said. "One of the executives at Nike is a close friend, played with me at Iowa. He showed me some things when I was out there on a recruiting trip to see Myke Tavarres. They talked to us about getting gigged, like Oregon or Florida. I didn't want in any way to be Oregonized.

"I want the traditional look. I like the uniforms we wore back when Darren McFadden was playing. Now, there will be probably one game a year where we do something different."

The eight-game losing streak -- a school record -- came up and a thought that the assignment of playing in the SEC West was "daunting." Bielema had a firm answer.

"No," he said. "There was one game this year where I thought we were manhandled in a way, where we didn't match up one-on-one for four quarters. Other than that, we were able (to compete). I'm exciting about having these guys back in six months and seeing where they are as far as development.

"The next step, starting Tuesday of next week, they will be in a development process, then there will be another eight-week session that takes them to the first week of spring practice."

Bielema said he found out late Saturday night that Brandon Allen's truck had been egged. He said he phoned the quarterback Sunday morning to discuss it.

"I wanted to make sure there would be no retaliation and talk to him about it," Allen said. "We'll let the (campus police) work on it.

"It was probably done by a college kid and, let me say, probably it had to do with some encouraging drinks.

"I wanted to talk to Brandon because he does have the mentality of a lineman."

As far as why something like happens, Bielema and quarterback coach Jim Chaney, the playcaller and offensive coordinator, both said it kind of comes with the territory "when a team is not having much success."

Chaney said he's known of such pranks before. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray had his house egged.

"The position is so polarizing," Chaney said. "You win games, you get a lot of credit. You lose, you get a lot of blame.

"What goes around comes around. I think you just focus on your next game. I think what takes place in that regard is just part of the beast of playing quarterback. It comes with the territory."

Bielema said it was good to have Mitchel back with the team after he left in an emergency situation Friday night to be with his mother in the hospital. Mitchel rejoined the team Sunday. He said Mitchel had his best two weeks of practices leading up to the game after playing poorly at Ole Miss and in other games.

"I think Tevin had taken a lot of blame," Bielema said. "He had great practices, the best we've seen from him. He's got a good future. I'm interested to see how he plays this week."

Taver Johnson, who coaches the cornerbacks, said he had a good visit with Mitchel on Sunday.

"I sat down with him last night," Johnson said. "He is excited to be back with us and we have all encouraged him. I can't imagine what it's like when your mother goes down like that. It's sure good to have him back and know she's better." Defensive coordinator Chris Ash said, "Tevin's going through a very difficult time right now. And we're here to support him, do everything we can for him. Football's the last thing that we're worried about with him. Hopefully he can get back in a good frame of mind and be here to help us for Saturday. But right now we're worried about his family.

Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said Philon battled through illness during the open date and still played hard.

"He's been sick," Partridge said. "He's lost 15 to 17 pounds and I thought he was still productive. He fought out there. We hope to get him back full speed."

Partridge knows what's waiting at LSU, a physical team with running backs like he was used to seeing at Wisconsin and throughout the Big 10.

"They have a big offensive line and I know their right guard is 6-6, 350, and they are a physical challenge up front," Partridge said. "They have three talented running backs, all physical and all with breakaway speed. They are much different than what we saw the last few weeks, more scatbacks. These guys are pro styled backs, and a lot what we are used to."

Ash had similar thoughts.

"Well, they're big, they're physical, they run the ball extremely well," Ash said. "They've got great skill players on the outside and they've got a very effective quarterback. So, they're a good football team."

Ash is familiar with LSU's style of play.

"This team they have right now reminds me of some of the Wisconsin teams we had," Ash said. "I mean they're big, fast, physical, they love to run the ball and play really good defense. They have what we want to build.

"They've got an outstanding offensive line that does an extremely good job with their zone blocking schemes that they run," Ash said. "They've got big, physical running backs that can run through you, run around you. They are fast. And again, when you've got to worry about the wide receivers on the outside or the quarterback that can throw it, it's an extreme challenge.

"You've got to pick you poison. Do you load the box to stop the run and put your defensive backs in a sticky situation, or do you play coverage and hope that you can stop the run with seven. You've got a challenge to decide which direction you want to go."

Chaney was asked about the development of the offense, noting it was his system with his verbiage and terminology. Bielema had indicated earlier that the systems were not similar to what was used at Wisconsin on offense, but very close on defense. That makes sense since Ash and Partridge worked under Bielema at Wisconsin.

"We continue to merge and work on what we want to be," Chaney said. "We want to try to run the ball as best we can and to migrate into a play-action system. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

"I thought we were on pace early in the year to be what we wanted, then Brandon hurt his shoulder. There were five weeks where his shoulder bothered me. I think it's been close to where it was at the start over the last two games and I think you see that he's much more accurate in those four games."

Allen is 109 of 229 for the year, but in the two games before the injury and last two games he's a combined 52 of 89.

"That's what I'm talking about, better accuracy," Chaney said. "Our protection was better in those games, too. I thought he threw it better in the last game. It wasn't perfect, but better. I thought we were on pace before the injury, but that was obviously a setback."

Chaney knows the task this week is difficult. He's going against an old friend in LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis.

"I've been around John," Chaney said. "What I can say about his defenses first, they play hard. I think that's a compliment. That's a big part of coaching. You always know they are going to play hard and be physical.

"It will start with protection (against LSU). They get great pressure off the edge. They got what they need to play defense in that area. Then, the next thing you always look at, do they have the ability to play press coverage at cornerback. They do.

"They are going to give you math problems because of that ability to play man everywhere with a man free (at free safety). Again, they have what you need to play defense in this league."

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