HOOVER, Ala. - Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema heard some criticism from media and fans over his choice of the three players he brought to SEC Media Day on Wednesday.
But he made it very clear why he brought senior Brey Cook, Alan Turner and Trey Flowers - all three dressed in suits and bow ties.
"I think you should know that I get a kick out of reading certain things," Bielema said. "I didn't bring the flashiest, sexiest, cutest. Everybody wants me to bring the quarterback, the pretty boys, the ones that are popular. I brought three seniors that represent what Hog Football is about. They represent everything I want in my program."
Bielema had talked about that earlier in a pre-Media Day interview session with the media covering the Razorbacks.
"They are guys that I think speak their mind well," Bielema said. "I brought these three guys because they represent us well. It's not necessarily our three best. I have heard a lot of commentary from some people in this room about who should or should not have been brought. But I'm not doing anything other than to get my message as a head coach across - seniors matter.
"This will always be a senior team," Bielema added. "No matter if there are eight seniors or 18, it is important what they think, what they feel and what they believe and I need to hear that.
"I don't take underclassmen for a reason - I don't think they have earned it yet no matter how great a player they are and what awards they have won," Bielema continued. "This is a senior leadership team and that's why I brought these guys."
It's a mutual admiration society as evidenced by the players' thoughts on their coach.
"He is an incredible guy," Cook said of Bielema. "What you see is what you get. He's the same way on social media and in public and behind the scenes. He's a great guy and really brings a whole new level of physicality to our offense and he really is a fun coach to play for."
Flowers could have left for the draft, but coming back to play for Bielema was one reason he didn't.
"Just knowing where the program is going," Flowers said. "I knew under Coach Bret Bielema and the guys he put around him as far as the staff, we're taking this program to winning season."
• • •
Some other topics that Bielema discussed on Wednesday:
• On the offense and quarterback Brandon Allen:
"It all starts there," Bielema said. "We all know that he touches the ball on every play. I think the confidence that he will have not only in his own abilities but the abilities f the players around him. Obviously last year we had a tremendous center and it is going to be hard to replace him, but the other positions will be as good or better than we were a year ago. More depth at tight end, better depth at running back. Obviously the experience the wide receivers got a year ago and the news ones we brought in would have a big effect on anybody."
• On the defense being better under new DC Robb Smith:
"Without a doubt defensively, we have become more aggressive at every position - D-Line, linebacker, DBs - if we just play with a little bit more physicality, a little bit more confidence, a little more swagger we are going to get better," Bielema said. "I think the simplicity that Robb brings is very, very good. With Chris (Ash) our previous defensive package was small in the way it was described, but very complex in what had to get done. The more we can simplify things for our players from snap to snap is just going to make them better.
"It is going to make them more physical make them better executors when the time comes and a better defense overall," Bielema said.
• On moving OL Cordale Boyd to the DL:
"Every since I got here I have just been overly impressed with his work ethic, his desire and his attitude," Bielema said, "He is a very, very intelligent young man. He runs extremely well. I kinda had just been eye-balling him the last half of spring ball. I brought him in at the conclusion of spring ball and said 'hey, you are a back-up interior player. I think you are a guy that wants to win. What would you think about doing this?'
"He looked at me like I had three heads for a minute, but he has jumped into it full flow," Bielema said. "...I also switched Mitch Loewen to defensive end from tight end for us. I think he can play an very important role for us this fall.
"If they are on scholarship, they need to get out there and they need to get on the field and we need to put them in the best position possible," Bielema continued.
• He noted that offensive linemen Cameron Jefferson and Sebastian Tretola had yet to arrive. Jefferson has gradated from UNLV and is just waiting on the all the paper work to clear. Tretola finishes up a class on July 25 and should be at Arkansas around August 1.
• On new linebacker Josh Williams, the juco transfer that Arkansas picked up this summer.
"I remember him as a high school senior that weighed 190, 195 pounds and was a D-end," Bielema said. "I have been very fortunate to recruit (Ft. Lauderdale) Dillard High School for a long time. I saw him grow last year into a 230-pound man. Our guys will tell you that he runs extremely well. I know - because of certain rules the NCAA has allowed us to have this year - that we have been able to meet with him and he is a very, very quick learner. His football IQ is off the charts.
"I am very excited," Bielema said. "I think he finished an online class that was suppose to take six weeks and he finished it in three weeks with All As. He is just a kid that is very knowlegble. He gets it."
• Having the eight weeks of contact with the players this summer that the NCAA now allows:
"I think it has been huge," Bielema said. "I sat down back in January and realized that we just needed to be better at a lot of things that weren't scheme related. Football IQ, communication, understanding the complexity of the game, critical downs - just different things that can help you win games in a short amount of time and help get you better prepared.
"That is a huge emphasis - and the neat thing for our guys - ....the NCAA allowed us to do certain things, but there is no parameters from our players," Bielema added. "One of the neat things I found out after we took a step back from our players when the NCAA had a two-week dead period - and we needed to just step away and let our players breathe for a moment - they continued the Hoganese classes on their own.
"Brey Cook led it with the offensive line, BA (Brandon Allen) led it with the skill players on offense, Trey Flowers led it with the defensive line and Alan Turner ran it with the back end guys on defense," Bielema continued. "Just impressed with the leadership that our players kind of carried forward from that."
• On not having quarterback options last season, but do this season:
"I think a lot of that depends on what Austin (Allen) and Rafe (Peavey) can give us," Bielema said. "In addition, A.J. (Derby) - even though he is a tight end - we will still rep him at quarterback. There is a guy there that has obviously played in a game and played a lot of games in junior college. The quarterback position - other than the status of BA as the starter - I think is going to be a critical part of fall camp."
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