State of the Hogs: The Edge

Bret Bielema didn't want to tell at first, but he relented and shared something written on the wall in the locker room after Saturday's scrimmage.

Bret Bielema takes every chance to teach his football team, still learning its coach at the start of his second spring at Arkansas. Sometimes he shares some of his oldies but goodies as far as philosophical nuggets.

Some good stuff came out Saturday afternoon in the interview room in Bielema's post-scrimmage visit with the assembled media concerning some building block words in the locker room. It's called his five edges to success.

It came when he was asked if his team was physically tough. He said he likes that area of the team and called it one of his five edges. Quickly, a follow-up question came, what are the edges?

"I'm not sure I want to give those out," Bielema said. He paused, smiled and consented.

"The first one is just toughness – mentally and physically," Bielema said. "Second thing is that I really believe is for us to demonstrate things is that we have to play fast and through the whistle. So those things have nothing to do with ability.

"The third thing – and the most detailed thing – is that we have to play clean," Bielema added. "So that means no penalties, we've got to be great in ball security and we've got to need to have great football IQ.

"Those top three things off the board have nothing to do with other than want to and the way you think about things," Bielema continued.

"Fourth is we have to win critical downs – which is third down, red zone, goal line," Bielema said. "Game-changing situautions. Maybe it is a critical down on offense backed up in the red zone – something along that line. And the kicking game.

"And the fifth and final thing is we just earned everything," Bielema said. "I gave our kids the analogy the other day is that one of the things that I have witnessed in life is that when you grow older, you see certain things. You just kind of grow ideas and thoughts."

Bielema said he has understood the importance of earning your way for a long time. It started when he went on an annual cruise that was full of successful people.

"When I was a younger coach, we went on a cruise every year," he said. "This cruise, you'd meet these successful donors and businessmen and women that you could see why they had success.

"They thought right, they acted right, they had success in life because of how they handled their business.

"Then I remembered meeting this couple that was on this cruise and they were kinda really, they were kind of odd. A little bit unique, shall we say, in the world. And I had found out they had won $50 million in the lotto. They didn't really create that money. They just kind of had it given to them. Four years later, they weren't on the cruise because they'd gone through all that money.

"I think all the time I want to prove to kids that if you earn things, they tend to last. They tend to mean more to you. We definitely have earned the spot that we've been in in the world of college football. What we do with it from this point is in our hands. Nobody's going to give us anything. Don't look for handouts.

"Nobody's going to give us a game. we've got to earn everything we do by the way we practice. That was kind of the summation."

Bielema sees some players earning their way. He singled out running back Jonathan Williams.

"Jonathan Williams," Bielema said, "I know he really didn't get a chance to break one today, but he got the yardage that we expect and is so much more physically in his football game with the way he blocks on third down and the first down runs and second down runs. He is setting himself up for something special."

Bielema likes what he saw in the running game.

"We seem to be hat on hat and that's an improvement – to get the right people with the right hats on the right foes," Bielema said. "I thought our tracks got off path a little bit in the run game, but those are going to be very easily corrected. The O-line was as good as I have been around about the details and the footwork in the running game.

"It was nice to see that Denzel made a couple of nice runs," Bielema added. "Alex Collins made a couple of special gifts in the running game as well. He made a play on Thursday that was pretty special to watch. He definitely, as we all know, has a lot of ability."

So it was a day to learn about edges, tracks and earning your way. The head coach provided some clues to what he's building at Arkansas. You can see it coming together.

I see improvement in many areas, especially at wide receiver and cornerback. Watch out for Jared Cornelius. He's no Quinta Funderburk, a midterm arrival that was highly regarded but a bust. This one is special. He has the hands to be a winning edge. Perhaps these will be winning edges for the Hogs in 2014.

Jonathan Williams drew special praise from the head coach.

Jared Cornelius has gifts, speed and great hands.

Photos by Jason Ivester, Hawgs Illustrated

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