Bret Bielema (Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports)

Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema on Mizzou, Thanksgiving, The SEC And More

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema spoke with reporters during the Southeastern Conference teleconference on Wednesday morning.

Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema spoke with reporters on the Southeastern Conference teleconference on Wednesday morning. 

Here’s what the Arkansas coach said during his time with reporters in advance of Friday’s SEC contest at Missouri.

Opening statement…

“It is an unusual work week for us as we’ve got an opportunity to play on Friday this week against a Missouri team that’s catching fire. I have a lot of respect for Coach (Barry) Odom and what he’s done there and I know what he’s building. I think we’ll actually be probably as healthy as we’ve been in several weeks. Have an opportunity to play another East divisional game. Obviously we had one already at Florida. But the permanent crossover (game) trying to build the rivalry with us and Missouri and the Border War and the trophy game. It should be exciting and I’m excited about the opportunity on Friday.”

On if Arkansas wins, getting to eight wins, and that being one more than last year being a barometer of progress…

“I get it and I know that’s an easy tangible way of looking at it. I think the one thing I always kind of say at the beginning of the year and I mean it throughout is if we get better every week we’re moving forward and this year has been a little bit of a different one from year’s past in the fact that we won some ones that probably the outside world didn’t think we would and maybe didn’t have the final score that everybody wanted in the others but we were playing to win and I thought we were in every game, usually going into that fourth quarter, other than Auburn, that was a little bit  lopsided. But I know this, our depth, our roster, our talent, our production — I think offensively we lead the offense in several categories that is high up there in the SEC. We obviously have some things to clean up and get better on defense. We’re excited with where we’re at and if we get an eighth win that would be a huge feather in our cap but it’s not utter disappointment if we don’t. We just have to keep moving forward and get our place in the SEC.”

On Missouri linebacker Eric Beisel's comments and how he takes that…

“The reason I addressed it to our players afterward, I got a very good message from Coach Odom, he and I I think are fairly good in our profession as friends and he reached out early yesterday morning making reference to it, said that the young man wanted to get on the phone and apologize. With my schedule and his schedule I said we fully accept and understand it’s not the first time this has happened. I did tell Barry, I said, hey, tell him that the Razorbacks accept the apology fully as long as he learns how to pronounce Arkansas. That’s something that strikes a chord with everybody here in the state and me not being from here but understanding what that means and he agreed wholeheartedly. I think it’s water under the bridge and obviously a game gets played on Friday.”

On if he has say in this game moving from Saturday to Friday and if it’s something he likes…

“I do. I think as we were trying to build this rivalry game I think it needed a unique thing, so the trophy obviously provides that but also the Friday 1:30 time slot. I strongly recommend it. I know Jeff (Long) feels good about it. The feedback we get from our fans is pretty cool as well because it’s obviously a unique time for a family maybe to get together that normally can’t. I understand the Saturday traditions and all that goes into it. As we build our roster, to be quite honest, if we find ourselves in a position to be blessed enough to go to Atlanta in the future I think that one day of recovery is a good thing, extra recovery. So there’s a lot of positives. I really can’t see the negatives in anything in front of me.”

On the tradition of wearing home uniforms in this game…

“We did when we were at home. We didn’t a couple years ago. But I think on Saturdays wearing our whites with our red helmets is just something we’ve worn on the road. I’ve been trying to lock our guys into something of consistency because, even the question before about playing on Friday, that does present a unique preparation so I’ve kind of locked our guys into, hey, there’s a lot of unique things this week let’s hold on to the things that are real. So one of them is our uniform. The kids like it. They like the white with  the red contrast. But you have a national holiday in here, you have a traditional meal that’s usually on Thursday that we’re eating today, you have no classes on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday when they normally are. So there’s enough of the unusual that we wanted to lock into the usual as best we can.”

On if Missouri’s offense is unique or similar to what he’s faced in Mississippi State and some other teams…

“There’s a lot of carryover, to be honest, in the TCU game. They play as fast as humanly possible. I think they have the eighth-fastest offense in the country. I believe they had 110 snaps last week in 31 minutes, which is blistering pace. So they present a lot of unique preparation opportunities. Obviously they are very talented too. Damarea Crockett obviously is suspended for the game; he’d been very impressive on film. But their running backs, whoever they had lined up there, had been very, very impressive. Tight ends are a great part of their offense. They rotate through a couple guys in that position. They have wide receivers that make you miss in open spacing. The quarterback throws with a lot of confidence. You can see when he gets in rhythm and gets on time, he’s a very, very productive player. Again there’s a lot of carryover to the TCU offense and how that affects the game, especially with the pace of play.”

On if having a shootout game against Mississippi State and playing another high-powered offense puts pressure on his offense to score points…

“I think our offense locks in to what they try to do. They try to take every series with an attitude to advance the chains, take advantage of red-zone opportunities and score touchdowns. I really like the demeanor that Dan (Enos) presents with our offensive players and coaches. They are very opportunistic. I think as we’ve gained a little bit more rhythm as the year goes on and when Austin (Allen) is playing at the level that he is right now, when you have third down that you don’t convert or a trip to the red zone that’s not a touchdown everybody gets just pissed and to me that’s a great thing. It shows how much you expect to have success. It’s not like, oh, we didn’t get it. I mean, there’s genuine discontent when they don’t have success. When you have that on your team you’re always going to have success and hopefully it shows up Friday again.” 

On the SEC West against the SEC East and the SEC East’s recent success against the West…

“I would say more than anything we take that stuff into consideration when you’re not in a game. We’ll use it in recruiting. You’ll talk about East-West when you’re talking about national rankings or where you stand. But when you’re in a game itself that week — you’ll talk about representing the West, I’m sure a little bit, our players will say it — but for the most part it’s kind of who you’re playing. I guarantee this, we didn’t do anything in the Florida preparation that was dependent on our record in the West versus the East and the same will carry forward in this game. I think you see how talented the SEC is. Obviously Florida coming up and beating LSU last week, a team that had beaten us and then obviously we handled our ways against Florida. In this game and especially in this league, East, West, the SEC is so deep and so talented and we kind of cannibalize one another. It’s a bad thing for the byproduct of a national presence but I know the top teams in this division, in the West, and I’m fairly confident in the East as well compared to the rest of the nation I’m pretty sure we would hold our own and that’s a good thing. As postseason play plays out you’ll get a chance and opportunity to witness that.”

On preparations this week with a Friday game…

“So the day that kind of evaporated for us this week was Monday. We went into our Sunday preparation mode but then Monday is usually a day off. We just took that week day right off of the mix. Monday became a Tuesday for us and Tuesday became a Wednesday, so today’s a Thursday. With that being said, since it’s the Thursday of Thanksgiving week, we’re having a turkey dinner meal here at 3:15 after our meetings and after our practice. We’d like to get our guys all triptophanned out here on Wednesday. Tomorrow will be a normal routine. We’ll have our normal menu that we do when we play the day before a game and as well as game day will be the same as usual. So the only unusual one will be we’ll have the Thanksgiving meal here today with family and administration and the players who are here on campus.”

On how much recruiting Missouri has become a natural place to recruit for him…

“It was one of the few carryover areas. When I was at Wisconsin we had recruited St. Louis fairly well and actually Coach (Barry) Alvarez before me had done very well in that area. It was a natural transition when we came here to the South to jump in and recruit St. Louis. I remember going into Christian Brothers. I remember going in after Armon (Watts) and B-Wall (Brian Wallace). Both those guys will travel on the plane with us as well this weekend. Of course Hayden Johnson is from Columbia, Missouri. We’ll actually be able to take Kody Walker with us this weekend as well. He’s from over in that neck of the woods. There are some guys from there. It was one of the natural carryovers coming into the SEC, so it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve always loved St. Louis. I used to go to a couple Cardinals games every year and down there in the plaza area by the stadium, by the baseball arena, was absolutely awesome. I had a good buddy of mine get married in downtown St. Louis. So it’s always been a cool area for me to visit and also recruit.” 

On 20 commitments in the recruiting class and what he feels good about in terms of positions and what he has to finish off with…

“Well you’ve got one more than me so I’m hoping I get good news soon. But I think what we’ve been able to do the more years we’re here is we get on kids earlier and we get to know them. Just cause everybody loves football and gets to play the game of football and everybody’s a football player doesn’t mean they are going to fit in here. I think it takes a special type of kid — you have to play with a chip on your shoulder, you have to survive the academic testaments that we put our kids through, you have to be able to do things right off the field as well as on the field. So as we close out these last two to four I think there’s a whole variety of things too. There’s some new legislation that’s coming through. As you get down the stretch here one of the things you always think about is the last couple years we’ve had some senior transfers and you have to have an initial available for that to even become a possibility. I may not fill the whole allotment. We’re going to fill them with great players if that’s what we can do, but I’m really excited. We get done Friday and fly back. Saturday we’ll have a huge recruiting meeting here, 10 a.m. Saturday morning, and then we’ll hop on a couple planes Saturday and Sunday morning and recruit the entire week and then have two big recruiting weekends in December. Well the first one for us will be big for sure, the second one will be determined in the future.”

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com.

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