Q. How is the new coach changing the new program to his liking?
Clay Henry: "The first thing Bret Bielema changed was the strength and conditioning program, along with nutrition. The team is much bigger and stronger, most notably in leg strength. That matches what he wants to do as far as downhill running. Squat lifts were emphasized more than in the past, since drive blocking is important in the new scheme. The team is 20 to 30 pounds heavier across both sides of the ball up front. Bielema has been pleased with the development of that area of the program. Strength coach Ben Herbert had much success developing offensive linemen at Wisconsin and it's apparent that his work there -- along with line coach Sam Pittman -- has been successful in producing what Bielema desires. Pittman was offered a position by Nick Saban in the offseason as Alabama line coach, a high compliment. He's considered one of the best."
Q. Like Florida, Arkansas has become a smash mouth team. Does your fan base miss the days when you were more of a wide open offense as badly as ours does?
Clay Henry: "Style of play comes up everywhere and it does at Arkansas. Bielema's style of play is clearly more similar to Houston Nutt, former Arkansas coach, than Bobby Petrino. That seems to produce some moaning at times, but Bielema maintains that balance is the key to his offense. Last week against A&M, the ratio was 201 rushing, 282 passing. Bielema's message has been consistent, the goal is to average over 200 rushing and over 200 passing."
Q. This seems like a team that was built for Petrino's down field passing attack. Does Arkansas have the kind of personnel to run the pound run game that the new staff is trying to run?
Clay Henry: "The irony is that wide receiver recruiting -- while heavy in numbers under Petrino -- did not stockpile receivers. There has been heavy attrition over the last three years at that position. Tight end was a position that wasn't recruited heavily and is a central piece to Bielema's offense. He's produced six tight ends on NFL rosters and he was disappointed when he found only three players on scholarship at tight end when he arrived. He signed the number one tight end in the country in Hunter Henry and also found a walk-on at tackle that was suited for what he wanted at tight end. He quickly elevated the walk-on, Mitchell Loewen, to scholarship and he's earned a spot as a starter through the first five games. The focus in recruiting is heavy on the offensive line. Bielema has gone toe-to-toe with top programs for three fine freshmen and there are commitments in the next two classes that were coveted by Alabama, Ohio State and others."
Q. What is missing most on Arkansas' offense to be as effective as the new coach wants?
Clay Henry: "Arkansas has two high quality commitments at quarterback in the next two class and talent coming in the offensive line. Bielema wants to continue to recruit wide receivers and tight ends. There are two commitments at tight end in the next class."
Q. What is missing on defense to put the Razorbacks at the next level?
Clay Henry: "Linebackers, linebackers, linebackers. That's where Arkansas has had the most misses in evaluation in the last four years. Arkansas has signed linebackers, many as projections from another position. There are two good ones in the current class, true freshman Brooks Ellis and juco transfer Martrell Spaight. This may be the week that Spaight, who didn't arrive until summer, sees a jump in playing time. Arkansas has played a lot of spread early and not much downhill running. Spaight is better against the latter and might help this week against Florida. He's a vicious hitter. Secondary play has been a weakness, too, but that seems to be settling out this year. The talent level there isn't as good as the experience. Bielema is a former defensive coordinator and an old linebacker coach. He will find linebackers."