Trey Flowers wants to help Bret Bielema turn the Arkansas football program around. The defensive end from Huntsville, Ala., gave the Razorbacks head coach some more good news on the recruiting trail with a decision to pass on a high NFL draft grade.
Bielema, in his second year as UA head football coach, had said the week of the season finale against LSU that "recruiting Flowers" would be one of his major jobs in December. Flowers told the Arkansas coach on Friday that he would pass on the NFL at this point. Flowers announced his decision on a teleconference at noon Monday.
Flowers has started 26 games and dating back to his freshman year when an injury to Tenarius Wright forced him into the game as a true freshman at Alabama. He has 122 career tackles and 13 quarterback sacks. He had 44 tackles and five sacks this past season.
Flowers got a third round grade when he put his name in for consideration for the NFL draft, but decided to return for his senior year.
"I just really want to help the Razorbacks in 2014," Flowers said. "I believe we are going to have a very positive year. We got in the weight room after the LSU game. We have a lot of good recruits. I'm looking forward 2014."
Flowers said he met with Bret Bielema four times before making his decision. He said he came to the conclusion to return on Thursday night, told his parents Friday morning, then Bielema.
"I told my parents my options on Friday morning," Flowers said. "I actually decided the night before. I told Coach Bielema on Friday. He hugged me and patted me on the back. He was all smiles.
"I'm glad I could put a smile on his face. I want to come back and help lead this team in 2014, get the program in the right direction."
Flowers said he has goals on and off the field for his senior year. One of the top students on the team, he said they include graduation and improvement on the field. The Hogs went 3-9 last year, 0-8 in the SEC.
"My draft grade was good," Flowers said. "But I think I can help my draft status and I am excited about the players and talent we have coming back and some of the new recruits."
"I'm very excited for Trey and not just his immediate future, but for everything down the road,"Bielema said. "I went through this process, going back to last spring when I first sat down with him and his parents to talk about exactly where he was and where we thought we could get him. Then we'd have a decision to make.
"I really kept them in the loop as much as we could. I talked to his parents several times throughout the course of the year. Trey came in as I expected after the end of the regular season and we sat down. We filled out the information. We did a telephone conference with his father.
"I said we'd wait for the grades. We got our grades in, and I believe I was notified on Jan. 1. Last Friday afternoon I flew over to Alabama and myself and Coach (Ben) Herbert sat down, went through about 15 documents with Trey and his mom and dad, the information that I gathered for him to make an informed decision.
"Thankfully he notified us shortly thereafter and said he wanted to maintain and pursue his dream of playing and chasing his dreams here at Arkansas for another year. He'll be able to get his degree and hopefully move his draft status that much more for the future."
Flowers will be learning under a new position coach. Charlie Partridge took the job as head coach at Florida Atlantic two weeks ago, leaving Bielema the task of finding a new defensive line coach.
"It crossed my mind (that Partridge is gone)," Flowers said. "But in high school, I played under four different coaches. I adjusted. It's a chance to learn something new. When I go to the league after next year, I'd have to learn under a new coach then, too.
"I knew Coach Partridge had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to go to his hometown school as head coach. He called me on the phone. I wish him the best of luck. He taught me a lot about life and about football."
Flowers will be playing opposite a new end after Chris Smith finished his eligibility. Flowers likes the prospects at that position with sophomores-to-be Deatrich Wise, Brandon Lewis and JaMichael Winston returning.
"Those guys are improving," Flowers said. "They got valuable playing time last year and they are going to get better as they play more. Their playing time last year helped. It's going to be interested to see who Coach Bielema brings in to help me and those guys."
Bielema said Flowers would have a unique role next year as a team captain, the leader of the defensive ends, the line and the defense. He would also be used at tight end in goal line and short yardage packages, much like J.J. Watts was used at Wisconsin.
Bielema said Monday that he shared 13 documents in hopes of laying out what Flowers faced over the next 59 weeks all the way to the combine in the spring of 2015. Among them showed the underclassmen who had declared for the NFL draft already with projections that the total could reach 80. Bielema had the numbers for the last five drafts with underclassmen participation that went from 46 in 2009 to 73 last year. He also showed Flowers how to buy insurance against his draft status with the NCAA.
"I showed him the plan for how he would be used in spring practice this year in the 15 practices we have planned," Bielema said. "And I showed him the fall camp for what we would have for him -- and what he would be held out of -- for the 28 practices then. I showed him 12 documents from (strength coach) Ben Herbert on where we would get him in the next six months, along with before and after pictures. I showed him documents of what we have planned to have his degree by next December."
It's clear that the role for Flowers is to lead the ends. It's different than last year when Smith was often the focal point in preseason all-star teams.
"One of the things we showed Trey was that he was part of a tandem of defensive ends that got a lot of attention last year," Bielema said. "He had to share the spotlight with some senior defensive tackles and Chris at defensive end.
"This year, the spotlight is going to be on Trey. Whatever jump players like Deatrich, Brandon and JaMichael, along with Tevin Beanum and some freshmen make, Trey is a big part of that. He's got to be a leader of the defensive line, our defense and our program.
"He may be the guy who forever is remembered as a huge part of turning the program around. I told him that there are six different awards that he will be a candidate for next year and we have a plan to promote him for them. We showed him the stats that are unique to him in the SEC and our media plan. And we showed him how he can be a different human being in 59 weeks."
As far as who will be the position coach for Flowers, Bielema may be close to announcing that, too. Bielema didn't share any names, but he said he's interviewed two candidates on campus and several more off campus to fill the vacancy as Arkansas defensive line coach. He said several are NFL coaches and others are long-time college assistants. He said there could be an announcement for the replacement for Charlie Partridge soon.
"It may be in the next 24 or 48 hours or it might not be until next week," Bielema said. "One of the things I am weighing is the role. Charlie wore a lot of hats for our program. He coached the kickers and did other things. Whether or not the (new coach) does some of those things, or I shift the roles has an impact on the decision. That's one of the things I'm working through.
"There is a great pool of candidates. Charlie was not only a great coach but a great friend. But I see this as an opportunity to make us better."
Flowers Gives Bielema Good News
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