Bielema Very Positive About His Team's Future

Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema looks back at the season, talks about his hire of new offensive line coach and looks ahead to the future of his football program.

With his new offensive line coach Kurt Anderson in tow, Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema plans to hit the road recruiting on Monday and try to finish off his 2016 recruiting class.

But before leaving Fayetteville again for the recruiting trail as he did the past few days, Bielema took time to meet the media and look back at his team's 2015 season and ahead to the 2016 campaign.

The Razorbacks started the season 2-4, but roared back to finish 8-5 by winning win six of their last games, including a 45-23 win over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Jan. 2.

“I am very excited about that win and what it propelled us to after that,” Bielema said. “The great thing about a bowl win is you can let it savor for a long, long time.

“I think for us to be in Memphis and the way they played out, to have a crowd the way it was, it couldn’t have been anything better for us now going into this year with season ticket sales and a lot of people being able to enjoy that game and all that. Very excited about that.”

Arkansas will begin its off-season conditioning in two weeks, will have its pro day on March 9 and will start spring practice drills immediately after spring break on Tuesday, March 28 with its annual Red-White game set for April 23.

"We will go Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for five straight weeks, and the second third and fourth weeks we all go Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and that will be our 15 practices," Bielema said.

He noted that Arkansas will adapt its mode of operation in the off-season.

“We will start an eight-week conditioning in two weeks with (strength and conditioning coach) Ben Herbert with the guys that we currently have,” Bielema said. “I thought it was very important to get a full eight weeks.

“I think we have two types of rosters that are coming back. We have a group of experienced, very, very developed, very in tune to what we do and we have this next group that is going to have to fill in in big ways with a lot of work.

“So we are going to adapt our program a little bit and we have in the past. It is something that I have routinely done going into my 11th year as a head coach just trying to fit your roster a little bit better.

“I am excited to work with Herbs, who will do some things a little bit different than we have done in the past and kind of lay that out as we go forward.”

He's also excited to work with the 37-year-old Anderson, who he hired away from the Buffalo Bills and who had previously coached at Eastern Michigan and playaed against the Razorbacks in the 1998 Citrus Bowl as the center for Tom Brady at Michigan.

"I was able to hire an O-line coach…Kurt is a very vibrant personality that I had learned about,” Bielema said. “In the recruiting process, he was actually the No. 2 linebacker coming out of high school behind (former NFL All-Pro) LaVar Arrington. Seeing as how he finished his career as a center, you can see which way those careers went and he will be the first to admit it.
“He is very talented, a valued asset (to those) that he had worked with and been around.”
He is obviously a former Michigan man while Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos played at rival Michigan State.
“Dan, being a Michigan State guy, when we first started talking about Kurt, being a Michigan guy, sometimes those things don’t mix together, but they had a lot of commonalities about each other," Bielema said. 
“People just raved about what he was able to do -  the proof is in the pudding in the product that he has put on the field. I thought it was interesting  when he filled in this year as their O-line coach had been suspended for the first seven games and they had led the NFL is rushing.
“Just a lot of positives around him, a great asset, just seeing in the first few days of recruiting as well, he brought a lot to the table,” Bielema said. “I think he is a very dynamic recruiter that can help us not only on O-lineman, but on other positions as well. So I am very excited about him.”

Bielema confirmed that tailback Kody Walker will be back for a sixth season granted to him by the NCAA, but that linebacker Josh Williams' status is very much in doubt.

Williams injured his calf in Arkansas' win at Tennessee and was unable to play the last half of the season

"Unfortunately, Josh had another procedure," Bielema said. "He's lost a pretty significant amount of that calf muscle. … Unfortunately, one of the bad parts of our profession, one part of our job … He's really going to struggle to get back to a point of walking and doing things functionally again as a normal person. Hopefully, he's going to be able to play football again some day, but it's probably a long ways away from that being able to happen. So we'll address it.

"He wasn't able to go home until last week. He'd been in the hospital again when we were in Memphis. He didn't join us until Wednesday or Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately just a lot of by-product off of that surgery."

Bielema was asked if Williams is likely out of the season.

"I'm not going to say that," Bielema said.  "Right now he's not cleared for spring ball, and I don't expect him to be for... (fall). Let me tell you, if he could get cleared for fall football, I'd be the biggest, happiest fan of Josh in the world. I just don't know if it's going to be possible.

"It's a bridge that we're going to have to cross together. If he can't do it, I'll be the first to hire him as a linebacker assistant and let him be involved in every way possible. He's truly been one of the greatest blessings for us. He's an A, B student. He does everything right. He can play all three positions. He's an absolute coach's dream."

Bielema also announced that he doesn't expect anyone to transfer out, but that linebacker Randy Ramsey, who played as a true freshman before being dismissed from the team, would be rejoining the team on his own dime.

"I don’t think so,” Bielema said on transfers out. “I tell you what. I can’t confirm 100 percent, but I am 99 percentile that Randy Ramsey is going to be with us in the spring as a walk on, a non-scholarship player. He asked if he could return and pay for his own way and I thought that a good way for him to express his desire to be part of what we are doing, to pay his own way from out of state."

As far as spring practice, Bielema noted that Austin Allen would go out with the first team with Rafe Peavey, Ty Story and Ricky Town in tow.

They all got a chance to get siginificant reps during bowl practices.

“I think we got in 16 practices and I believe that five of those were developmental only so there was a lot of really good quality work for those guys,” Bielema said. “There was actually two practices where we didn’t let Austin practice so it was just those other three quarterbacks.

“Austin got in a lot of really good viable work as the number one guy when his brother BA (Brandon Allen) wasn’t even on the field and then there were a number of practices that those next three quarterbacks got a lot of work without Austin being there as well.

“We always talk about in the spring how there are no ones. But you have to have somebody go out when we call the ones. It is kind of coach’s perspective, but I think if that first group ran on the field it would be Austin.

“If the second group ran out there, it would be Rafe. If the third group ran out there, it would be Ty and Ricky (fourth), just based on time in the program.

“Now what they do with it will have an influence on how certain people can move up and down the depth chart.”

Bielema also had positive news regarding tailback Rawleigh Williams, who suffered a neck injury in a win over Auburn and missed the rest of the season.

“Rawleigh reached out to be on my birthday and wished me a happy birthday as he is a very polite child,” Bielema said. “I said ‘how do you feel? How are things in Dallas?’

“He said ‘I feel great coach, 100 percent ready to go.’

“I do know that we are doing a couple extra things medically not only to appease us, but him and mom as we should.

“I don’t think they he will do anything with us this spring other than go through drills, non-contact. Before we step onto that field as a contact player, we are going to make sure we have everything cleared.”


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