Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema talked about the status of Will Gragg, Jamario Bell and Daytrieon Dean as well as many other things heading into spring ball.
On Tuesday, Bret Bielema will begin his fifth spring at Arkansas. The Razorbacks will practice Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday the next five weeks. The final practice will be on Saturday, April 29, when the Hogs play their annual Red-White game.
Bielema met with the media on Monday to preview the spring. Arkansas is coming off a 7-5 season that didn't end well, but Bielema has made some changes on defense and feels good about the upcoming year.
A trio of in-state players who came to Arkansas with high expectations, but haven't seen the field yet are defensive end Daytrieon Dean along with tight ends Jamario Bell and Will Gragg. All three are going to be third-year sophomores. How close are they maybe to getting into the mix to play some?
"As I'm sure you know you just mentioned three Arkansas guys that haven't gotten on the field," Bielema said. "Three different stories. Daytrieon Dean was not a heavily, heavily recruited kid, but a guy we liked. I lit him up pretty good in January about, 'We need to see something out of you. We need to go forward.' He's responded with a very good spring. I'm excited to see where he can go. I think the evolution of a new coach, a new scheme, is going to help him.
"Jamario Bell was obviously a highly-recruited young man that we first had on defense. I think his mentality and his physicality is better-suited to offense. If you watch him practice, he'll make some plays offensively that nobody else does. He makes catches, grabs, and then he'll do something that's childish. So I really, really pushed him to grow maturity-wise. … Just physically looking at him, when he walks on the field you're like, 'That guy needs to play.' Looks only get you so far, so he's got to learn how to play.
"Then Will Gragg, I've got to give him a lot of credit. We really challenged him during the out-of-season and I think he responded favorably. He's trying to do things. He just had to do some things he never did before. He's always probably been bigger and stronger than everybody else. The area he needed to jump into was his preparation. All the things leading up to getting on the field. Then, to be quite honest, C.J. O'Grady got in at the end of the year, but really hasn't done as much as well. Those three tight ends right there, that's going to be a big thing. I didn't want to play Grayson Gunter, but he was better than those three. That's why he played, and that's the challenge I put in front of them."
Freshman Who Has Chance to Be Special
Bielema feels the offensive linemen that came in at midterm are all capable of helping the Razorbacks this fall. He's ready to see them this spring. One seems to have really made a strong impression on him. The three are Shane Clenin from Festus, Mo., Dalton Wagner from Richmond-Burton, Ill., and Nashville, Ark., High School's Kirby Adcock.
"Shane Clenin is very talented," Bielema said. "Kirby is as well and Wagner is as well, but I think Shane probably, he’s more like some of the guys I’ve had in the past that literally can play multiple [positions]. Shane can probably play tackle, guard or center. He’s going to play somewhere for us.
"The other guys are going to play, as well. I could see all three, to be quite honestly, playing as freshmen. I think Kirby, it’s been the most transitional for him, just physicality-wise to jump into this environment, but all three are very athletic, very talented and very hungry."
That's How They Were Named
Bielema talked about the names of the linebackers since the Hogs are going to have four in their base defense instead of the three in the past. Two will be outside linebackers and the others inside. Bielema talked about how they came up with the names Razor and Hog for the outside linebackers.
How did you come up with the names Razor and Hog for the outside linebackers?
We got creative," Bielema said. "It's so funny. I grew up playing the 3-4. So I grew up in that system. I was an outside linebacker. I was literally outside linebacker and there was another outside linebacker on the other side and were called OLB. Then there was two linebackers inside they were called ILB. Then all of a sudden with the emergence of the 4-3 came the Sam, Mike and Will. Everybody loves Sam's on the strongside, Will is on the weakside and his buddy Mike hangs out in the middle and everybody is happy.
"Now with the evolution of the 3-4 as I talk to different people even going back to my last defensive coordinator hire. I interviewed a couple of 3-4 guys. These guys were all playing the same position, but all had different names pertaining to where they were at. Some were very creative. There was a nose called Nico. Man, I would have loved to called Nico back in the day. Finally it just evolves around recruiting.
"So when Paul (Rhoads) and I sat down and so our Razor is kind of an outside linebacker that was is more of a hybrid linebacker/safety. Our Hog is more of an outside linebacker that is more of a linebacker/hybrid D-lineman. So they are two different type of guys. Some look alike and some look different, but their purpose and function is a little bit different. Both of them have to do the same things at times. But that's how we came up with those. We stayed with Mike and Will in the middle. Our ends really are guys shaded anywhere on the tackle to the inside. They don't move a lot. They will be guys who will be on the outside shoulder of the guard to the outside shoulder of the tackle. It limits the amount of movement they're going to have to do to get aligned. Our nose is primarily from inside of the guard to the opposite guard."