Jason Ivester

State of the Hogs: Bielema's Wind Breaker

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema told the crowd at the Kickoff Dinner there are no plans to ditch the wind breaker.

Bret Bielema spoke almost every day this week and a lot of it was the same material, but there were a few tidbits of knowledge learned at Friday night's Arkansas Football Kickoff Dinner.

I love the question and answer segments anytime the UA head football coach speaks. He is good in that setting and tries to unload some knowledge on fans or the media. He obliged Friday night at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center.

A fan asked a question I wish I had asked two years ago and had thought about many times. Why does Bielema wear a windbreaker even in stifling heat? Is there a time when it might be too hot for even Bielema to don a windbreaker?

No, probably not.

Bielema said that if you ask Frank Broyles or Ken Hatfield, UA coaches from the past, they'd have a reason for a certain attire. It's clear that Bielema is superstitious where it comes to the wind breaker. Hayden Fry, his mentor, wore a wind breaker at all times and that was something Bielema adopted quickly.

"I recall when I was on staff (at Iowa) and we played at Tulsa," Bielema said. "I forgot to wear the windbreaker and we lost and I thought it was entirely my fault. So I've always worn it since then."

Bielema absolutely "idolized" Fry. It was Fry who gave him a scholarship as a walkon, then gave named him to his staff as a graduate assistant.

"Coach Fry is from Texas and he always thought it was too cold (in Iowa)," Bielema said. "So he had either long sleeves on or that wind breaker at all times. He had one look for games. He wore a black wind breaker and white slacks. Now, I probably don't look too good in white slacks, but I'm going to wear a wind breaker. You probably don't want to see me in that look.

"I remember the time Coach Fry called me in to offer me the job as linebackers coach. I was making $6,000 as a GA. I was going to make $60,000 with that promotion. I thought I was a millionaire. It was a big deal.

"He had just done his workout. He had coaching shorts and a T-shirt on. It's the first time I'd ever seen his bare arms. Some of my buddies (on the team) and I thought he had to probably have a naked lady tattoo on his arms. So I was studying his arm. No naked ladies. I don't even remember what he said to me because I was so busy checking out his bare arms. I told that story to Coach Fry later and he thought it pretty funny.

"I thought maybe I'd get rid of the windbreaker look when I became a head coach, but I never did. I will say that it's a new one each week."

It's clear that Bielema likes to draw up trick plays. He's still proud of the pass play with Sebastian Tretola in a field goal formation.

"I will draw up things and show them to my wife," he said. "I liked that one especially because one of the key things is that a player in an ineligible number can't receive a pass, but he can take a snap. We'd had that play in our playbook for about two weeks. I wrote it out on a card and brought it home to show Jen that week before we ran it.

"That night after the game, I came home and asked Jen where the note card was. She said, 'I threw it away. I wrote a grocery list on it.' I was horrified. I dug it out of the garbage because I thought it was famous."

Bielema was asked about his motto of "uncommon" that seems to be stamped everywhere at Arkansas this season. He uses that phrase in recruiting pitches and is pleased when a new commitment calls to reveal his decision.

"They'll get on the phone and say, 'Coach, I want to be uncommon,' and I think that's pretty cool," Bielema said. "I got it from Tony Dungy's second book. I don't have a trademark, but I do like the mojo."

There was a question that seems to come up often, concerning the comparison between the SEC and the Big 10. What makes them different? Bielema said it's the depth in the defensive line.

"What you have in the SEC is freaky," Bielema said. "In the other league, you have a good front four, but in the SEC, most teams are two deep in the defensive line. And, they've got from five to six guys who are 330 and are just immovable objects. They wear you down and turn it into a fourth quarter game. So I think the difference is the D-line depth and the environment on the road that makes the SEC different.

"I have also studied what it takes to be an SEC champion. Out of the last five SEC West champs, they've gone 18-2 on the road. So winning on the road is a key."

A youngster seemed to know that Bielema is an aspiring chef. What's his favorite item to cook?

"I love to grill, but I really like to cook eggs," he said. "I can cook them every way known to man."

Bielema opened his remarks talking about last season's 7-6 record, something he still thinks is nothing to celebrate. He knows fans loved the 31-7 victory over Texas in the finale. There has been a lot of mileage gained from that victory, but Bielema thinks it's time to put that one to bed.

"I did enjoy the way that one played out," he said, referencing Brandon Allen taking a knee to close out the victory on the Texas goal line and his comments earlier this summer that it was border line erotic the way the Hogs finished the game. "I really did think it was pretty cool that we did that and they couldn't do a damn thing about it."

Bielema went through the 2015 team position by position, taking special care to praise backup quarterback Austin Allen's development.

"I think Austin is very talented," said Bielema, noting that Allen had changed his body in a big way since last season.

Then, he switched to the secondary, labeling it the position that has changed the most since he's come to Arkansas.

"We didn't look like an SEC secondary two years ago," he said. "Now, when this secondary is playing well, we are as good as anyone in the country."

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