Bret Bielema's goal is to "get better each week." The Arkansas head coach said Thursday night on his radio show that it appears that's happening.
"Our guys were disappointed to lose in the Texas Tech game, but I think our offensive identity came back that week, then I think our defense responded the next week against Texas A&M," Bielema said. "We didn't win, but we've gotten better. Our goal is to get better every day. We did last week and I think we've gotten better in practice this week."
One of the big developments last week was the emergence of wide receiver Dominique Reed. He scored a touchdown that helped in a rally past Tennessee for a 24-20 victory. Can Reed provide more help.
"We are trying to work him into the game plan," Bielema said. "But he needs to be where we need him to be (on routes). He's working on it. He's a willing soul. Today, we got an academic report and it was unbelievable. He hasn't learned as fast with us as he is on the academic side. Usually, it's the flip side with that. As he develops, he's going to have a good career here.
"Our game plan this week has some targets for him. I hope it comes through."
Bielema praised running back Alex Collins at the show held at the Catfish Hole.
"Alex is the best Alex that he's been," Bielema said. "I've known him a long time and he's been great. He's doing well in all aspects. His academic report today was two As, two Bs and a C. He's stayed off all of the (wrong) lists. He's shown a maturity and has practiced so much better.
"He's been high energy in practice. He's protected the quarterback and done things that are noticed in our locker room to earn respect. He's got a lot of talent and he's trimmed up and has his body right."
Running backs coach Jamel Singleton knows Collins is good with the ball, but it's his play without the ball that has improved.
"I mean this, there is not a back I'd rather have when our quarterback drops back to pass," Singleton said. "He's great in protections.
"I will say that I have seen some magazine covers with some ball security issues and I'm going to talk to him tonight after we leave (the Catfish Hole)."
Collins said Singleton's coaching points are different.
"It's the drills in practice where all the magic happens," Collins said. "You don't want to let go of the ball because everyone is going to be punished if it falls to the ground."
Bielema reminded that this was the third straight week for the Hogs to be away from home, all in SEC play.
"We have talked a lot about our Code Red philosophy," he said. "The one thing we talk about a lot, when you are on the road you will face adversity. There will be huge momentum swings. We defined it by the opening kickoff, then going down 14-0 at Tennessee. We responded. There was no flinch and that goes for our coaches and our players. We drove for a touchdown and our defense came to life."
Bielema said the Hogs are coming off a physical game.
"We have seen that Tennessee has eight guys who are questionable this week, a lot of DBs," he said. "We had guys who were slow coming along this week, too, but I think we are fine."
Bielema knows what to expect from Alabama.
"I guarantee three things," he said. "Alabama will not give us anything. So when an opportunity comes we have to seize it. And, it's going to be a four quarter game. If we play good, we will have an opportunity and our guys love it and our kids have bought in."
Bielema said Collins has worn a green jersey in practice several weeks this year because of the pounding he takes in games.
"The running back, when he's handed the ball, he's going to the ground," Bielema said. "He takes enough hits. So we are not going to hit him during the week."
Bielema was asked if Alabama has changed since he's come in the league. He said the Tide is the same defensively.
"They are exactly the same (on defense)," he said. "But offensively, you see the hand print of Lane Kiffin (as offensive coordinator). This year Alabama is one tight end, three wide receivers. Three years ago it was two backs and two tight ends most of the time. And, they run some no huddle, going tempo.
"You just have seen the evolution of Lane there. They are very different and difficult to prepare for as far as offense."
Bielema said the Hogs are excited to hit the road again.
"This is three straight weeks to travel," he said. "We've made some adjustments. We are going to travel in sweats, no suits. You'd think I gave them a new car!"