The announcement came Tuesday that Arkansas would play only one game in Little Rock starting next year. It brought forth speculation that when the new five-year contract ends that perhaps there would be no games in Little Rock. That's not the way Bret Bielema sees it.
Arkansas' presence in Little Rock was one of the topics that Bielema fielded Wednesday during the SEC teleconference, the last one in the regular season. Arkansas plays at LSU at 1:30 p.m. Friday to close Bielema's first season at Arkansas.
"Absolutely," came the response from Bielema when asked if he wanted to continue to play games in Little Rock.
"It makes it easier on our parents from the Little Rock area and close by to Central Arkansas. I've heard so much positive about playing there when I'm on the (Razorback Club) circuit. It's the one chance for many people in our state to watch the Razorbacks. From that perspective, it's very special."
Bielema thought the atmosphere in both Little Rock games was very good this year. The Hogs beat Samford in a night game and lost to Mississippi State in a morning game this past weekend.
"I thought it was awesome both times," Bielema said of the crowd. "The first one, a night game, was electric. The walk through was awesome with people already tailgating. I think this past week, a morning game with adverse weather and our team not having a great record, you couldn't ask for anything more.
"There are a lot of positives. There are situations about it where there are some things you can do in recruiting and some things that you can't. But to keep it in perspective, there are a lot of positives there and I do (want to continue to play in Little Rock)."
Bielema was asked by Spencer Tillman of CBS Sports if he would "borrow" from other programs that might be going through something similar, a winless conference stretch.
"I think you do look more during the season about your own situation, just what's going on with your team and your players," Bielema said. "Out of season, you might do that. You might look at programs that have had something similar. But I don't think anyone has a blueprint for what we've had here the last two years.
"You do look at history to draw on somethings that might help. History is a thing you can draw upon, but it's even better if you can write your own history (with a winning streak)."
While Bielema is excited about growth, he emphasized that there is nothing that can be exciting about losing.
"Obviously, there is no comfort in defeat," he said. "I do know that our players have grown every week. Even in some of the game that were not close, there was growth. I really don't look at the score so much as whether or not they competed for four quarters."
Bielema was asked if he saw some similarities in LSU's style with the way Wisconsin played under Bielema.
"What I see is a lot of really good players," Bielema said. "I see a quarterback in Zach Mettenberger who understands where the ball needs to go in the run and pass game. I see a great player outside in Odell Beckham and a great running back in Jeremy Hill, a big, fast powerful player.
"Whether it mirrors anything else in particular, I'm not entirely sure."
LSU coach Les Miles also visited with the media during Wednesday's teleconference. Miles said talented wide receiver Odell Beckham, bothered by a bad back, would play against the Hogs. Beckham injured the back against Ole Miss, then aggravated the injury last week in a victory over LSU.
On the Razorbacks, Miles said, "They play hard and there is talent there. They are better than (an 0-7 SEC record)." As far as LSU, Miles said the victory over Texas A&M was one of the most complete game for the Tigers.
"We've played three really poor quarters this year, and that's it," Miles said. "In that respect, this was a game where we put together (four quarters)."
Among the most interesting things on Bielema's radio show Wednesday night was the process that he goes through with juniors that have draft prospects. This year, that would be junior defensive end Trey Flowers.
"We will submit his paperwork to find out his draft status," Bielema said. "I will meet with him Saturday morning (to start that process). What we will show him is that what he can be if he comes back and has another year in Ben Herbert's program. He can be a freak show. He's 283 now. He can be 295 and be a very special player, be a first round draft pick."
Bielema said his task as head coach will be to "do the best recruiting job I can do" after the NFL status returns.
Bielema said Friday's game is for the Golden Boot. He said he's been a part of trophy games for quite some time. At Wisconsin, there were two trophy games every season.
"This is something we've talked about this week, the rivalry that this has turned into and what it means to a lot of people," Bielema said. "We want to give people some bragging rights. And, we want to give our seniors -- players who have been through so much -- one night of glory and keep the trophy for the next year."
Bielema was asked about players that have not been seen this year that could play a significant role next year. He's mentioned players like De'Andre Coley, Tevin Beanum and Chris Jones on the redshirt lists. He talked about freshman wide receiver Drew Morgan Wednesday night.
"Drew has played this year, but he's really come on in the last few weeks," Bielema said. "He's practicing with a real attitude right now. Drew has gotten better every week."
Among players that have been productive this year from the freshman class, Bielema continues to praise guard Dan Skipper. He said both Skipper and Denver Kirkland, another true freshman, have gotten tremendous experience playing aside senior center Travis Swanson.
"You can't put a price tag, what those two freshman have learned from Travis," Bielema said. "One thing I've sen, people hate to play against Dan Skipper. He plays through to the whistle. That rubs off on everyone. I think guys like Brey Cook -- who had a pseudo benching -- has continued to play to the whistle now. If he continues his current progress, he's going to be very happy in two years.
"We are not dirty. We do play with a little edge (in the offensive line). It's the way I want them to play. If it pisses off other teams, so what."
Another question: What are the keys to victory for the Hogs against LSU?
"On offense, we have to do what we do," he said. "We ran for 225 last week against Mississippi State, but we didn't run efficiently at critical times. After Jeremy Sprinkle ran the drag (for 44 yards to the 12), we didn't run efficiently in the red zone. Alex Collins had the ball ripped away, like a man taking something from a child. We have to be efficient there.
"We have to keep the ball in our hands. We can give them no freebies, no big plays on defense. We can't give up free yards. We have to create turnovers and we have to tackle well. We can't flop around like a dead fish."
Bielema thinks game in Little Rock important
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