After playing in five different stadiums in the last five games, Arkansas returns to play in Fayetteville this weekend. Head coach Bret Bielema said on his weekly radio show Thursday night that his Razorbacks are excited for the game to arrive after a bye week.
With a packed crowd at the Catfish Hole for his radio show, Bielema said that's what he's looking for Saturday when the Hogs play host to Auburn. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. Saturday with the SEC Network handling the telecast.
"This is great," Bielema said. "We look forward to an atmosphere just like this and we hope that everyone has an energy drink."
Bielema called it the first "home SEC game." Technically, the Texas A&M game in Arlington was a home game, but this will be the first SEC game in Fayetteville.
"We needed a bye after the first six games," Bielema said. "We needed to get a couple of guys back."
Bielema mentioned the healthy nature of the running back tandem of Alex Collins and Rawleigh Williams, plus the possible return of Kody Walker.
"Alex and Rawleigh had some injuries after the Alabama game," Bielema said. "They needed a week."
Walker has been out with a broken hand sustained in the Toledo game. He's finally in the game plan after a reduction in size of a cast to protect his injury.
"Kody had a cast that was like a boxing glove," Bielema said. "He was practicing, but he wasn't really able to carry the football."
Walker may take the place of linebacker Brooks Ellis in some special teams.
"It's big to have a third tailback in the rotation," Bielema said. "You need three to get through the SEC. He's also valuable as a fullback and can catch the ball.
"Brooks starts on two special teams and it's really too much to ask him to play six games in a row doing that much and stay healthy. He was credited with 15 tackles, but we had him credited with 20."
Bielema said it was good to have a simulation of Saturday's morning kickoff with a 11 a.m. practice on Tuesday that included a pre-game meal at 7:30 a.m.
"We occupied their time all the way through what would be a game day on Tuesday," Bielema said. "We got a feel for that and I like that."
Country music star Justin Moore was featured in the radio show. He'll deliver a concert, now set for the AMP Theater on Friday night. Moore, native of Poyen, Ark., is a big Razorback fan and close friends with Bielema now.
"It's developed into a genuine friendship," Moore said. "I can tell you honestly that I enjoy going to practice more than I enjoy my job. That's a bigger deal."
Bielema said, "He always mentiones us in everything he does. Our recruits are excited that he's a big-time friend."
Moore talked about a trip to Las Vegas that he made, along with wives, with Bielema.
"I've gotten to know Coach B through a friend in the athletic department," Moore said. "We met after I pulled up next to the offices in my bus. It's evolved into a genuine friendship."
Bielema said, "I grew up listening to country music. My mom was a big fan of Kenny Rogers. I knew we were going to meet Justin and I googled up his songs and he's a cool dude."
Moore said, "This is pretty good. I'm hanging out with Coach Bielema at the Catfish Hole. Doing music is great, but this is a bigger deal."
Offensive line coach Sam Pittman provided a brief preview of the Auburn defense. He singled out the play of the defensive line.
"They have an outstanding nose guard (in Montravius Adams) and a great defensive end (DaVonte Lambert) and a very fine linebacker (Kris Frost). They have great speed and they are going to try to get up the field against us."
Bielema said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has been great at developing quarterbacks and newcomer Sean White, inserted in the lineup three games ago, has made great progress.
"You can see that (Auburn) put in some new wrinkles against Kentucky," Bielema said. "They always have new wrinkles every week and they want to run the football with this quarterback. They will run off tackle and have their pulls. The quarterback takes advantage of the looks they get."
Bielema said wide receiver Jared Cornelius would dress out and go through pre-game warmups, but it's not clear if he could play this week. Cornelius broke both arms in his arm against Texas Tech in week three.
"He's been with us every day this week and been practicing well," Bielema said. "I don't know if he can go this week, but he'll go through pre-game warmups. We are not going to take a chance with him. When you are coming back from an injury, sometimes you have a bump in the road and we are going to make sure we don't do anything that jeopardizes his recovery."