Bielema: Collins No Surprise

Bret Bielema likes what he sees from Alex Collins, now playing his best football after weight and strength gains in the offseason. Arkansas travels to Texas Tech this week. The Northern Illinois game the following week has been picked up by ESPNU for a 6 p.m. kickoff.

There may be some that didn't expect Alex Collins to look faster after gaining 10 pounds to carry 215 for the season. But Bret Bielema wasn't surprised.

"Maybe some were," Bielema said Monday at his weekly media briefing. "And, maybe it surprised Alex. What I hope is that maybe he says, 'Wait a minute, if I eat right, lift right and sleep right, I might get better.' "

Bielema has long been pushing for better nutrition and sleep habits for Collins. The South Florida running back got the start Saturday in a 73-7 victory over Nicholls with both Jonathan Williams and Korliss Marshall nursing minor injuries. Williams played, but Marshall did not dress for the game.

"Alex had his best three weeks of practice and now that's showing up on game day," Bielema said of the sophomore back who 199 yards on 19 carries in two weeks.

Williams has 177 yards on 11 carries, including a 90-yarder for a TD last week against Nicholls.

The injury report took up most of the time for Bielema at his briefing and it was mostly good. Cornerback Tevin Mitchel, considered a starter in preseason, is still out with a hamstring injury. It could eventually lead to a redshirt.

"He's still not with us," Bielema said. "It's getting to the point that a redshirt is becoming a more tangible issue. He's closer than he's been, but if he's not in next week's plans, then we'd probably redshirt him unless we have something major happen at cornerback."

Linebacker Randy Ramsey suffered an ankle injury in practice Tuesday and missed. Safety De'Andre Coley "tweaked a hamstring" against Auburn and did not play. Wide receiver JoJo Robinson had a bruise on his leg after being stepped on in practice. Robinson could not "push off" in pre-game Saturday and was held out of the game. Deatrich Wise, bothered by a sore knee from an August injury, did not play. Sleepy McKinney was out with a sore heel.

Bielema said the limited action from Williams and Marshall at running back gave more snaps to Kody Walker and Denzell Evans, two solid backs.

Among those receiving SEC player of the week nominations from Bielema: offensive guard Denver Kirkland, nose tackle Taiwan Johnson and special teams Jeremy Sprinkle.

Bielema called Sprinkle "a war daddy" despite playing with an injury in the second quarter. He also praised Henre' Tolliver, D. J. Dean, Khalia Hackett and Dwayne Eugene for special teams play. Adam Deacon and Josh Harris earned scout team awards. Bielema announced fullback Patrick Arinze and wide receiver Scotty Thurman, Jr., had been given scholarships.

The Arkansas head coach said he had some experience playing against Texas Tech, but not in Lubbock. He was a part of Iowa staffs -- along with defensive coordinator Robb Smith -- that beat Tech in the 2001 Alamo Bowl with current coach Kliff Kingsbury playing quarterback for the Red Raiders under coach Mike Leach.

Bielema was asked if the spread up-tempo offense Kingsbury is running was similar to what they did under Leach?

"I think so," he said. "A lot of what they do is predicated on tempo and the passing game. They do a lot of real good things and it comes from good coaching. He has a lot to do with the quarterback (coaching) and that position gets better every week."

The Arkansas plan is simple, slow down the Red Raiders.

"This is where our plans and our philosophy kick in," he said. "You have a plan on offense, defense and the kicking game and it all helps the defense (against up-tempo)."

Bielema continued to praise his nose tackle. The participation chart listed Bijohn Jackson as the starter over Johnson against Nicholls, but that was an error. No one is going to get Johnson out of the lineup soon.

"He plays extremely hard," Bielema said. "We had visitors (to practice) that liked him. I stay our of personnel decisions until I glowingly know. After the first scrimmage, I said let's move him to that tilt nose tackle. He's played very well.

"What he does (for being undersized) is play very strong. He's got strength in his hands and he plays his technique and has a fast motor."

For one of the few times in Bielema's time at Arkansas, there were no questions about quarterback Brandon Allen, who had four completions, all for TDs against Nicholls.

The only question in regards to the passing game was why there were not more passes called. Does a big lead inhibit the number of pass calls?

"It does," Bielema said. "I've been accused of running up the score in the past. You've got to do something. When we put in Austin Allen, I didn't want to tell him he couldn't throw.

"But we did tempo down the offense. We needed to work on some things, but I want to be respectful of the game."

ESPNU has picked up the Northern Illinois game, up next after Texas Tech. That game will have a 6 p.m. kickoff.

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