State of the Hogs: Photo Shoot

Bret Bielema understands what beating Texas is all about with Arkansans after visit to produce section at grocery store. It was a mob scene.

There were all the obvious questions about Darius Philon's pending decision on the NFL draft. Still up in the air, but it's my guess that he's coming back to Arkansas.

There was the matter of clearing up whether or not Robb Smith has signed a new UA contract as defensive coordinator. Done.

But the question I wanted to ask was the clincher at Bret Bielema's season-wrap media briefing: Has reality set in on what Arkansans think about the 31-7 victory over Texas?

Bielema and his wife Jen got the idea this weekend after returning from a few days in Cabo, Mexico. They tried to pop in and out for some groceries at a grocery store. It turned into a photo shoot.

“We didn't make it past the produce before the paparazzi got us,” Bielema said. “I think we had to take 20 shots in 20 minutes.”

Bielema already had a feel for what Razorback Nation thought about playing Texas when he got off the bus for the walk through fans outside NRG Stadium last week. It was a mob scene.

“I knew we were going to win,” Bielema said. “Well, I thought I knew. We were really ready and I knew our team was after that walk.”

The only real concern came the day before the game, really the two days leading up to the game. Rainy conditions in Houston ruined their tries at outdoor practices at a local high school. They had to do their prep in a gym and an auditorium.

“Bowl games, I think, gets down to so much of what is done before the game to lead up until when it happens,” Bielema said. “I look at us. i had never done a preparation like that. I had never been to a bowl game for less than seven days. I can’t tell you how many schedules i made and it went back and forth.

“We arrive four days out, three days out, do we go to practice? Then we go down there and we’ve got a curve ball where we have to adjust our practices two days in a row, which absolutely goes against every sensory in my body, but I knew we had to do it."

Then, it came down to fighting weather with an outdoor schedule. no indoor facilities were made available by the Texas bowl.

“Here’s a critical moment - and this is kind of funny,” Bielema said. “It is a friday walk-through for us - which is Sunday, the day before the game. we never do anything on Fridays. we do a light walk through, don’t do much.

“The day before we usually due a pretty intense practice - which is a Thursday, but it is condensed and very high-intensity. we didn’t get to do that because we didn’t - the Texas Bowl doesn’t have any indoor facilities because the texans are playing. and it’s driving me nuts.

“So I am watching practice and we haven’t ran for 48 hours and then i start counting back and it has actually been 48 hours and 16 hours (more) because we didn’t do it until 8 o’clock the day before we left.

“So finally in my head, I said we are going to do this the offense was in the gym, the defense was in the auditorium. I said ‘everybody go put on your shorts, put on your cleats and we are going to go out and run some striders. we are going to break a sweat and get going.’

“Not one kid, not one kid said a word or looked at me or did anything or said anything, but did a u-turn and went into the locker room and put those cleats on. I said to myself at the time - and i grabbed my coaches - and said that I didn’t have one kid. usually you are going to have one kid that goes ‘dang, I don’t want to go do that.’ not one kid.

“We went out there and hit 10 striders and we were out there for 15 minutes, the kids got into it and they were laughing and the next day we didn’t break stride. I think that - as much as we had to do with Xs and Os - I think the frame of mind the day before was set on what we are going to do.

“We weren’t playing outside, we were going to play in there jazz, but they couldn’t run and I thought - as much as I love basketball and I know we’ve got 40 minutes of Fury or whatever we are going up and down - you can’t run 100 yards. You can’t open it up and throttle it. That is what football is and that is why we kind of did it and I think they might have had as big a thing to do with it as anything.”

Bielema lost linebackers coach Randy Shannon to Florida, announced in Gainesville on Monday morning. Bielema hinted that Shannon got a $150,000 raise. That may be the only change in his staff, or the only one Bielema hopes happens. He didn't rule out someone else leaving, but it appears everyone else has a new contract. He said Smith signed his new deal to stay as defensive coordinator.

The question I asked, would Smith still be able to take an NFL job? There could be some defensive coordinator jobs offered in the next couple of weeks, although there doesn't appear to be anything in the wind now.

Bielema indicated that his coaches now have non-compete deals that rule out lateral moves in the SEC, just as he does.

As for Smith going to the NFL, Bielema seemed to side step that conversation. His response seemed to indicate that for both himself and all of his assistants, they haven't accomplished a lot just yet. Perhaps another year of improvement might make them more attractive and some thing to worry about.

“We won two SEC games,” Bielema said. “We haven't done much.

“I think Robb is very happy. He's a very good coach. I am very excited about working with him and I like him a lot. Obviously, you guys in the media like him, too. But this was his first year (as an SEC defensive coordinator). We are all excited about what we did, but we need to do more.

“We jumped him up a little bit. I approached Jeff before the LSU game -- during the open date I knew what was coming -- because I believe in being pro-active. We did some things for the staff. Contracts for assistant coaches here is something new. We cut through a lot of red tape with the school. They had never had contracts for assistants before I came here. I'd had one for 15 years as an assistant.”

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