Bielema Excited For Upcoming Spring Practices

Before hosting his program's Pro Day on Wednesday, Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema hit the Razorback Club speaking circuit this week with stops at the Mississippi County Razorback Club in Manila on Monday and the Baxter County Razorback Club in Mountain Home on Tuesday and talked about his excitement for upcoming spring practices and the 2015 season

Arkansas is just 11 days away from starting 2015 spring practice and it’s clear head coach Bret Bielema – who hit the Razorback Club circuit this week – is excited about that.

Workouts are slated to begin March 16 with a week of practice before spring break and the final of 15 practices being Arkansas’ Red-White game on April 25.

“We have to replace those who have left us – and we lost some really good players, but the good news is that offensively we have about nine guys back and on defense we have about seven back, depending on how we break it down,” Bielema told the SEC Network during Wednesday’s Pro Day.

“It’s fun to see those guys fighting for those new spots, it’s fun to see those guys that have returned trying to gain their spot on our roster as well,” Bielema added.

“I think the big thing is that we have kind of tasted a little success although 7-6 is no means a championship season, but it can be a launching point for hopefully what we are going to be able to do,” Bielema continued.

Arkansas won three of its last four games, including a 31-7 rout of Texas in the Texas Bowl in Houston.

But the Razorbacks were also close to pulling off some major upsets.

“We lost some heartbreakers to Alabama…to Mississippi State, to (Texas) A&M and to learn from those events and hopefully propel us in the future is huge,” Bielema said.

Bielema spoke before some 500 fans at the Mississippi County Razorback Club in Manila on Monday and an additional 400 fans at Baxter County Razorback Club in Mountain on Tuesday.

At both places, he noted how those late-season wins were big.

“I think it was big for our team, big for our coaches and for the lifeline of our program – our fans – it was good to let them know that good thing should be coming around the mountain sometime soon,” Bielema said.

“I think it is a big, big deal to let everybody have a ray of hope,” Bielema added.

“…As long I know that we are making progress daily, it’s a good thing,” Bielema continued. “But if you have a day where you stay steady or going back, that’s not okay.

“So the combination of being able to say we are getting better every day, continuing to get better players in recruiting, continue to develop an atmosphere in our program of expectations and success is a norm and not just a someday thing – that part is real,” Bielema said.

Bielema noted that he wants fans to set their expectations high.

"I never want to temper the excitement of any fan," Bielema said. "I want them to know that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. It's always better to have high expectations than low expectations. It's exciting for our players, for our coaches, for our recruits and most importantly, the lifeline of our program, the fans. To let them know that we'll be coming around the mountain soon and theres a ray of hope out there."

Bielema noted while in Mountain Home that he was excited to work with new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Enos, who left his job as head coach at Central Michigan to work with Bielema.

He also touched on adding new linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves and running backs coach Jemal Singleton.

“To bring in someone as high quality as Dan Enos at the offensive coordinator position,” Bielema told the Baxter Bulletin in Mountain Home, “he’s really trying to simplify our offense and make our guys play a little more faster and a little more aggressive.

“I’m real excited about our two assistants – Vernon Hargreaves, our linebackers coach, and Jemal Singleton, our running backs coach,” Bielema added. “I’m very pleased with what they have shown us so far.”

Bielema also lauded the recent 24-man recruiting class the Razorbacks signed last month.

“I’m excited,” Bielema said. “I think it’s a group that more than anything – because I’ve been here three years – it addresses our needs. It’s a good class, but its one that addresses the defensive line numbers, the secondary, wide receiver play and obviously our quarterback and tailback.”

The Arkansas coach stressed that he will play freshman right away if it will improve the team.

"I've had a lot of success with freshmen and with true freshmen," Bielema said while in Manila. "When we won three consecutive conference titles at Wisconsin, we also had three straight Freshman Player of the Years. I think that had a lot to do with our success. When you have freshmen, you always have that 'red shirt' option in your pocket if you need it. But I don't think mandating red shirt status is the answer."

Bielema had noted while in Manila that he loves recruiting.

“I really enjoy recruiting,” Bielema said. “I love people and recruiting allows you to go into a kid’s home that you have never been in before and allows you to meet someone that you have never met before and then try to shape and change their life.

“…The thing that really tugs at my heart is that when you know a kid is probably making a decision that he truly will never capitalize on if he doesn’t join us,” Bielema added.

“I realize that I am a little biased, but I have also been doing this a long time and I know what we are doing,” Bielema continued. “I wouldn’t call it cockiness, I would call it confidence. And if you truly want to be great, why settle for something less?”

Bielema also talked about what he feels like he has in terms of classes.

“We are actually still a little bit delinquent in our senior class,” Bielema said. “Our two strongest classes will be our junior and sophomore classes. To have that as a baseline of what you are trying to do is a good thing.”

Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen is a fifth-year senior who should have more weapons around him this season.

“I am excited to have BA as a fifth-year quarterback back, to have two 1,000-yard rushers, to have the core of the offensive line – four guys coming back – to have Hunter Henry at the tight end position and to have some difference makers on the outside is great.

“To have guys returning on defense and have our core defensive coaches remaining intact gets you excited about the foundation of what we are doing defensively,” Bielema added.

Bielema also stressed to the fans how they are a big part of the equation for Arkansas.

“Just the increased optimism of our fan base, to have a jump in ticket sales,” Bielema added. “You are not just buying a ticket. That money helps build what we want to build and allows us to have the resources to develop a man once he gets there, to put them in that facility and let them compete helps us against the rest of the SEC.”

Bret Bielema

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