Bielema: Decrease Verbage

Bret Bielema said the goal for spring drills is to get the defense playing faster. He said a decrease in verbage should increase action.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema didn't answer all the questions at Batesville on Thursday night. Perhaps he was doing the exact same thing as he is preaching to his defensive coaches ahead of spring practice, just eight days away.

Decrease the verbage might increase the action.

That's my interpretation, not his. But Bielema did exactly what he promised to writers on Wednesday at pro day when he said he wouldn't make any more comments about the proposed and now tabled 10-second delay on the snap.

Before the White River Razorback Club meeting in Batesville, Paul Glover from the Batesville Guard asked for Bielema's thoughts on the rule that was pulled from the ballot on Wednesday. Bielema said, "No comment." When the question was rephrased, he said, "I'm not commenting."

Bielema did his usual great job with the meeting. He's at his best in that setting. He's engaging and detailed as he covers a wide range of topics at Razorback Clubs. There was a packed house at the community college.

One of the questions concerned his new defensive coaches. Defensive coordinator Robb Smith, secondary coach Clay Jennings and line coach Rory Segrest have all been added in the last two months. They've been working in quick order the last three weeks with Bielema to streamline the defensive calls, playbooks and language.

The details have been hammered out. The meeting time has been so intense that time was used on a plane trip to a Razorback Club a couple of weeks ago for Bielema and Smith to finish the mesh.

"It's about simplifying things," Bielema said. "We want to increase action by decreasing the verbage. I really like what Robb is bringing to our defense. He can work with the back end and he also can work with our linebackers."

Bielema laughed a bit when discussing Jennings and the phone call he made for permission to discuss an opening. It was the second time in 12 months he'd made the call to TCU head coach Gary Patterson.

"I can tell when a head coach likes his assistant when you make that call," Bielema said. "If they are happy to give you permission, it tells you a lot. If they aren't, you are calling for the right guy.

"I can tell you right now after hiring Randy Shannon and Clay Jennings, I'm not welcome on the TCU campus right now. When I called to ask for permission for Clay, Coach Patterson was not very happy. That's a good thing."

In talking about Smith, Bielema said there were concerns when the job became open that he would not be available. There were openings in the NFL that were discussed. And Bielema came close to not having a shot at Smith at all, if Greg Schiano had not been fired at Tampa Bay.

"Greg Schiano had Robb slated to be defensive coordinator," Bielema said. "We would not have gotten him then. Timing is everything. I told him I had a better idea."

Among the most interesting notes from Thursday's meeting, Bielema explained that he videotapes his coaches in class room settings for them to watch their presentations. It's not that he wants to watch them, he wants his coaches to watch themselves to learn how to be better communicators.

"When Hayden Fry hired me to coach linebackers (at Iowa), I was 23," Bielema said. "I had never taught in a class room setting and I was coaching players that I had played with. I needed to separate myself from them, so for six years I didn't wear blue jeans and I wore glasses.

"So I decided to videotape myself and study it. I learned that I said 'uh' a lot and learned not to do that. So I still videotape my coaches for them to watch themselves."

Most of what else he said was a repeat of his the talks he made on signing day on recruiting and has been detailed before. He did say that freshman wideout Jared Cornelius is already making a move up the depth chart at wide receiver. The mid-term signee has sparkled in offseason workouts. Bielema said he was "one of our top three wide receivers -- I've already moved him up on our charts."

Cornerback Chris Murphy called Bielema's hand on a promise made in recruiting that Bielema said most players forget. Another mid-term arrival, Murphy recalled that Bielema had promised he could go home for prom or graduation or any other big event for high school that he would miss during the spring semester.

"He came into my office the other day to ask if he could go home for prom in two weeks," Bielema said. "So he'll miss his first practice. I acted like I didn't remember, but I obviously did promise. I asked him if he already had a date. He said, 'Yes, coach and she's worth it.' So he's going to miss that Sunday practice to open spring. He'll get back that afternoon."

Price Holmes, graduated linebacker and a former walk-on, introduced Bielema. Bielema detailed the day he gave Holmes, a Batesville native, his scholarship in the fall.

"I remember certain things about players," Bielema said. "What I will always remember about Price is the look on every face in our room when the announcement was made. Every single player on our team smiled. They liked that.

"Price thought he was a defensive back when I got here. But he kept getting bigger and I made him a linebacker. He played a lot more linebacker than he ever thought he was going to play."

In his introduction, Price said the new coaches made an impression on the players in short order that was important.

"They made us understand that they cared about us," Price said. "The coaches that we'd had the previous years I'd been at Arkansas, we didn't feel like they cared."

Bielema said, "You have to do that. If they don't think you care for them, they probably aren't going to care for you when they are on the field. I think it makes a big difference."

Bielema was asked if he takes care in picking players to avoid problems on character.

"The first thing I do each day when I get to the office is log on to ESPN," he said. "You go to the front page and there are 12 headlines. About half of them are negative. Unfortunately, that's what makes the news now.

"So far, our guys have kept their noses clean. But I do have a philosophy in recruiting. I can tell you that I didn't get into head coaching because of the games. I fell in love with coaching to help young men. I know that if you put up with off-the-field stuff it does show up on the field.

"I tell my coaches that if you don't want to be around them, don't bring them in."

Someone in the crowd said it was the way of Frank Broyles, the retired coach and athletic director.

"I remember when I came here, I was aware that Coach Fry had coached for Coach Broyles," Bielema said. "Coach Broyles came to me and said, 'You played and coached for Hayden Fry, so you are alright by me.' That's great when the big man signs off on it."

Bielema said Fry was probably the most influential coach he worked for, although he said he tries to take something from every coach he's ever been around.

"Coach Fry, well, I played for him, worked for him as a grad assistant and coached for him," Bielema said. "I dated his daughter for six years. That's probably why I got that first job.

"I will say that one of the things I learned from him was to let my coaches coach. He told me once, 'How many times did I come into your room to tell you how to coach linebackers? You are going to coach them.' That's how I do it. I don't call plays. I will suggest a pressure now and then. And I will tell my offensive coaches sometimes that they have two downs when it's third down. I think that helps when you are calling plays. In nine years, I've made four suggestions for plays and they all failed."

Bielema said he's not worried about how many stars his recruits get from the services.

"Monte Ball had three stars and he scored more touchdowns than anyone in the history of the game," Bielema said. "Russell Wilson had two and he won the Super Bowl. There was another player in the Super Bowl who played for us with zero stars."

That would be Chris Maragos, a former walk-on who came to Wisconsin as a wide receiver but left as a safety.

"I saw him drop five straight passes in practice and told him he was moving to defense," Bielema said. "He begged to stay at wide receiver. But he thanks me now."

Bielema won't forget the first time he met Wilson. It was on his visit to check out the Wisconsin campus after deciding to leave North Carolina State.

"My wife thanks he got him," Bielema said. "We had just gotten engaged and she went with me to the airport. She said, 'He picked Wisconsin because of me. He hugged me at the airport. I told her, 'Honey, everyone hugs you. I'd hug you, too.'

"The trip from the airport to campus is about 20 minutes. I really didn't know how we were doing. It seemed like a two-hour ride."

Bielema preaches a 1-0 mentality and that came out in one of Wilson's first interviews after the Super Bowl win last month.

"They ask him how they won the Super Bowl and Russell said, 'We just try to go 1-0, like we did at Wisconsin,' " Bielema said. "I said, 'Thank you God!' We got that recorded and we use it every day for our players."

Bielema said it's clear players have bought into strength coach Ben Herbert's plan. He sees 15 pound gains throughout the team, including with senior defensive end Trey Flowers.

Bielema is proud of the recruiting job he did with Flowers in December to get him to return for his senior year, a decision that may be lucrative for the Huntsville, Ala., product.

"Trey's grade with the NFL was second or third round," Bielema said. "But if he stays and moves up to late first round, it could make him $14 million just by staying in school one year.

"I make OK money, but that sounded pretty good to me. His dad said that wasn't really what it was about, though. He said Trey didn't want to be somewhere else and see what we accomplished next year and not be part of it. That tells you all you need to know about that family.

Motivation has come easy in the weight room after a 3-9 season. Bielema wonders if it might have even been a blessing that the Hogs didn't get those SEC wins at the end of the season in overtime against Mississippi State or in the finale at LSU.

"We played good football against Auburn and we let those last two slip away," Bielema said. "I was upset to lose those games as everyone in this room. But, it might have been a blessing. I think it helped our players realize that to change the math, they had to change. They had to do better with their grades, better in late-night choices and better in their workouts. That's how you change the math."

Among the first questions asked by the crowd concerned quarterback play.

"Obviously, everyone has an opinion about Brandon Allen," Bielema said. "Price will tell you that Brandon gave us our best chance last year.

"But the guy played in unbelievable pain last year. That shoulder popped completely out of place when he fell into the end zone against Southern Miss. The doctors told us four to five weeks. He missed one game. But he couldn't practice.

"I hadn't seen Brandon for six weeks until two weeks ago. When I saw him, he looked great, different. He's got full range of motion with his shoulder. He's added weight.

"Obviously, quarterback is a very important position. I'm very excited to see us move forward with Brandon, A.J. Derby, Duwop Mitchell, Austin Allen and Rafe Peavey. We've seen that Rafe is a very good athlete in our offseason workouts and he has a live arm.

"I will say that it's going to be an open competition. In fact, it's open everywhere. The only player on our team who has a spot is Trey Flowers."

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