Associated Press

Bielema Comes Strong on SEC Teleconference

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema talked about the strength of the SEC, his team's game with Toledo this weekend and a special honor for tight end Hunter Henry before that contest on Wednesday's SEC Teleconference.

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema took notice of the 10 teams that the SEC put in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released on Tuesday.

The former Big 10 coach also made note of the upcoming schedule of No. 1 Ohio State as it was put on the screen during the Buckeyes’ 42-17 win over Virginia Tech on Monday night.

“That’s just wonderful, I love it,” Bielema said. “I say that with a smile out of both sides because it is a major statement to not only obviously everybody here, but also those things don’t just happen.

“I was sitting here watching the other day, the Monday night game, and I spent a lot of time in that other conference and Ohio State is ranked number one and they have one game remaining on their schedule that has anybody ranked right now in Michigan State.

“We are going to play eight straight opponents that are ranked and it just goes to show that (Arkansas athletic director and College Football playoff committee head) Jeff Long and his committee has a huge task in front of them because if you truly do put weight of strength of schedule, to get through this conference – and everybody can joke about it – it is truly unprecedented what every team in this league can bring 

“If anybody tries to argue that, it is complete nonsense. It is just a whole another level with the competitive nature and balance.”

The Razorbacks (1-0) will travel to Little Rock to host Toledo (0-0) on Saturday at 3 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.

The Rockets were ahead of Stony Brook 16-7 at halftime last week, but the game was called because of weather and ruled “no contest.”

“We are excited about our second opportunity,” Bielema said. “We capitalized on the first one playing UTEP and I thought a lot of our guys played very, very well in all phases of the game.

“We tried to get some young guys in there and stay relatively injury free and see some guys make some plays that haven’t done in the past 

“On offense, I was particularly pleased in throwing the football and just being able to execute things that we had been working on starting with our quarterback and obviously with our receivers that caught it.

“Our line had a great day protecting the quarterback as he had zero sacks and only got hit twice even as they were bringing a lot of pressure. Good stuff there.

“Defensively, we got better as the game went on and special teams was a bright spot. Cole Hedlund, a redshirt freshman kicker, came in and was perfect on the day and we had a punter execute a great pooch punt and we were relatively pretty solid on our kickoff coverage and in the delivery of the kickoff.

“A lot of positives and we will take that into Saturday against Toledo and have a chance to make improvements and see where it takes us.”

Bielema tossed out some of those improvements.

“I’m looking for a couple of things on both sides of the ball,” Bielema said. “Offensively we were pretty good on first and third down. I would like to be able on second down to be a little more efficient.

“I think that comes from really playing the game and understanding what they needed to do. We always talk about if we have an incomplete pass on first down and we have 2nd-and-10, we would love to get half of that back and have a 3rd-and-5 to get ourselves back on track.

“Obviously we also want to convert every time in the Red Zone. We had a couple of field goals, which is obviously good, but you want to have touchdowns and not field goals 

“Defensively, overall it is just tackling. We were better tacklers in the second half than we were in the first half, but I want to see that defense of old where we line up and get a guy down in the field and not have any hesitation.

“In the kicking game, we didn’t get many chances to punt and we need to take full advantage of those opportunities.”

Bielema noted that junior tight end Hunter Henry would carry the Arkansas flag out of the tunnel on Saturday.

 “We are bringing the Arkansas flag out and the United States flag out and he is going to carry the Arkansas flag on Saturday and I know he is really, really pumped,” Bielema said. “He is a young man that is very proud of where he came from.

“He is from Pulaski Academy and Pulaski Academy had great success the other night and I knew Hunter was going to be bragging about it in the locker room.

“He is a kid whose dad is a preacher and has instilled some values in him that are second to none. His mom, you see the side of Hunter that she brings out of him. I think it is just awesome to see and be a part of the kid’s life.

 “When you met him, he was 17 years old and baby-faced and 210 pounds and now he is 255 –pound that has drawn the attention of very NFL scout.

 “Whether he is a junior or senior, I think he is the best NFL prospect in the country and been told that by many people who can see it on field.

“I remember his freshman year we were playing Florida, he had a linebacker get after him a little bit, kind of grabbed him by his shoulder pads and jerked him a little bit and I remember saying to my staff there is going to be a day when Hunter is doing that to the competition.

“I think that day arrived last year and it has even improved. He plays the game with a little nastiness, a little physicality and he is very intelligent. I just think the sky is the limit for him.”

Hunter Henry

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