10 Oct

Bret Bielema: “A coach is only gonna be allowed to coach to the level of what his personnel is.”

What Arkansas coach Bret Bielema Said Two Days After the South Carolina Debacle

Excerpts from Monday’s press conference

“I took over a winning program and took it to an even higher level to go to three three straight championships. I came here to a 3-9 program, we went three and nine and we’ve been on a steady ship trying to build this thing up. We were gonna be at the highest win total a year ago—lost two games at the end of the year that were very frustrating and haven’t been able to get back on track yet.”

“We’ve battled a lot with our injuries and with new players and new faces this year, that we haven’t gotten over the hump. But there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll get it to where it needs to be.”

“The good news is we have good kids who haven’t shown any bad signs of losing [hope], any lack of effort, any lack of discipline, any in fighting or going at one another. It’s more of a message of unity and persevering.”

On whether the problems which plagued the offensive lineman are again hurting Arkansas this year:

“I think the only thing that’s changed on the offensive line from a year ago was the departure of Skip [Dan Skipper] – a guy who played every position but center.

I felt good about where our guys were coming in depth-wise. Obviously, we would like guys to play better at certain time. Hjalte Froholdt is an improvement. Frank has been playing some pretty steady football. Colton [Jackson] does some things very, very well. Johnny Gibson has obviously been a nice continued surprise from where we got him to where we are today….I think he plays better at that guard position than he does at tackle.

It gets frustrating, but again—there are some guys we recruited three or four years ago who haven’t developed into what we want them to be…“My only regret is that four years ago we didn’t make the decision to recruit two more (in the O-line) in each class.”

A coach is only gonna be allowed to coach to the level of what his personnel is. And, again, if we just had a couple more guys depth[wise] that coulda matured and been in a position to play right now. I like the guys’ attitude.”

“I told our guys on Sunday night if I’ve ever been around a team that can change their path in a very short fashion, it’s these guys right here  right now. It’s not like they’re a million miles away — they’ve lost an overtime game, they lost a TCU game that went right down to the wire and [against South Carolina] there were in the third quarter of a game that got completely out of control.

Woulda shoulda coulda – I get it. Everybody’s gonna have commentary – I get it. But they really, truly are a team that is not very far away from being where they need to be.”

17 Jan

Bret Bielema on Why Austin Allen Projects as the 2016 Season Starter

Austin Allen

Today, Arkansas head coach spent nearly 30 minutes discussing the state of the Hogs football program. In the below transcription, he talks about the health of running back Rawleigh Williams and the depth chart order the four quarterbacks.

He also urges new offensive lineman coach Kurt Anderson, a Chicagoan, to start rocking cowboys boots for the sake of Texan recruiting.

Bielema on the the Liberty Bowl aftermath: 

After the game we had a list of guys that needed to have medical follow up. Some guys who needed some random things that needed to get taken care of. We had a number of guys get into that. I’ll probably wait until we get back in school session because I haven’t been able to see those guys face to face yet to further comment on that. Nothing too serious, just some guys having follow up with the doctors.

I was able to hire an o-line coach. I know he’s coming in here to interview afterwards. I think Kurt is a very vibrant personality. He’s a guy that I had learned about during the recruiting process. He was actually the No. 2 rated linebacker coming out of high school, behind LaVar Arrington. Seems if he finished his career as a center he could tell which way those careers went and he’ll be the first to admit it. A very talented, valued asset to everybody that he had work with and who had been around. Dan, being a Michigan State guy, and when we first started talking about Kurt, and Kurt’s a Michigan guy, sometimes those things don’t mix together – but they had a lot of commonalities…

People just raved about what he was able to do… I thought it was interesting this year when he obviously filled in as the o-line coach because their coach had been suspended for the first seven games and they [the Bills] had led the NFL in rushing. Just a lot of positives around him. Been a great asset just in the first few days of recruiting as well. He brought a lot to the table. I think a very dynamic recruiter that can help us not only with o-line men but in other positions as well. Very excited about him.

Obviously, some other news to have the 3 guys declare for the NFL. I wish them the best of luck. Hunter [Henry], we had an extensive talk with him and his parents before the bowl game. I knew his rating when it came back was kind of low. We had envisioned and I think he has a very, very good chance of being the first tight end selected in the draft. An incredible career, an incredible impact on our program. I think back to he was my first recruiting call. I think that was one well spent. Right after of our media teleconference that first day I was announced.

Soon after that, I had been recruiting Alex Collins during my time at Wisconsin and then to come here and to have his career finish the way it did on that run, just is one that I’ll always remember. I think it was a very difficult decision for him as well. I sat down with a lot of his family and people. I think he was very, very torn, but his grade came out as a favorable grade to come out and prove his worth as well. I’m very, very excited for Alex and his next chapter.

Denver informed me via text that was sent to me on Wednesday. He told me on Monday he was going in the direction to make that next step. I wish him the best of luck as well as he moves forward.

Those are all 3 guys part of that first recruiting class. One that we hadn’t played a game yet and to have 3 guys that possibly could be the top in their respective positions in their respective grades, I think that’s a very, very good likelihood of them being that in that grade. I remember that class wasn’t all that highly regarded in the SEC, but had a national ranking I think was in the top third, I think somewhere in the 30s, somewhere in there. It’s not what you have when you walk in, it’s what you have when you walk out. I think those guys proved their worth.

We’ll start an 8-week conditioning in 2 weeks with Ben Herbert and the guys that we currently have. I thought it was very important for us to get a full 8 weeks. I think we have 2 types of rosters that are coming back. We have a group that is very experienced — very, very developed, very, very in-tuned to what we do, and then we have this next group that’s kind of going to have to fill in big ways that need a lot of work. We’re going to adapt our program a little bit than we have in the past. It’s something I’ve routinely done going into my 11th year as a head coach. Just trying to fit your roster a little bit better. I’m excited to work with Herb. We’ll do some things a little bit different than we’ve done in the past. Kind of lay that out as they go forward.

Then we’ll do all of our Spring practices post Spring break. Which we’ve normally gotten a week in before here before we left for Spring Break, but all of ours will come after Spring Break, with the Spring game coming on April 23. Our Pro Day is on March 9. That’ll be a big one. We got a lot of really, really talented players in large numbers, so I expect to get a good crowd for that (No doubt they’ll be looking to get the first taste of a high anticipated 2016 season, one in which Arkansas has been pegged with 50-to-1 odds of winning the national title).

Dab to the bone finished

#Uncommon Style. Click here to buy today 

Q: Has Kody Walker indicated he’s coming back for a 6th season?

Bret Bielema: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yep, Yep. Kody, I found out he had a 6th year and I waited until the right moment to tell him and when I told him he had a 6th year, he had about a biggest smile as you’ve ever seen. I don’t think there ever was any doubt that that was something he was going to look forward to.

Q: Is there anybody that’s indicated they want a transfer out of the program?

Bret Bielema: Other than the ones we already knew about?

Q: Yeah, anybody since the bowl?

Bret Bielema: No. I don’t think so. I tell you what, I can’t confirm 100%, but I’m 99 percentile that Randy Ramsey will be with us in the Spring as a walk on player, a non-scholarship player. He asked if he could return and pay for his own way. I thought that was a good way to express his desire to be a part of what we’re doing as to pay his own way out of state. I think he’ll be with us in the Spring and see what he can prove. We, obviously, had a couple of mid-year enrollees that will be with us as well, but nobody leaving the program.

Q: How much extra work did Austin Allen get during the bowl practices and how about any of those other [backup] quarterbacks?

Bret Bielema: Yeah, I think we got in 16 practices and I believe 5 of those were developmental only, so a lot of really good, quality work for those guys. There was actually 2 practices that we didn’t let Austin practice. It was just those other 3 quarterbacks. Austin got in a lot of really good valuable work as the No. 1 guy when his brother wasn’t, when BA wasn’t even on the field. Then there were a number of practices where those next 3 quarterbacks got a lot of work without Austin being there as well.

We always talk about in the Spring there are No. 1’s. You got to have somebody go out and we’ll call the 1’s. It’s a coach’s perspective, but if that first group ran on the field, it’d definitely be Austin [Allen]. If the second group ran after, it’d be Rafe [Peavey]. If the third group ran out there, it’d Ty [Storey] and then Ricky [Town] just based on really time in the program. Now what they do with it this Spring is going to add a lot of influence on how fast certain people can move up or down the depth chart.

Q: Have you talked to Rawleigh [Williams III]?

Bret Bielema: Yeah. I just texted him yesterday. Rawleigh reached out to me on my birthday and wished me a happy birthday. Polite child. I said, “How are you feeling? How’s things in Dallas?” He said “Feel great, Coach. 100% ready to go.” I do know that we’re doing a couple extra things with him medically just to appease not only us but him, mom, as we should. I don’t think he’ll do anything with us this spring other than go through maybe drills, non-contact, or anything like that. But before we step on that field as a contact player, we’re going to make sure everything’s clear.

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03 Jan

Brandon Allen, Bret Bielema & Sebastian Tretola Yuk It Up in Post Liberty Bowl Press Conference

Spirits were running high at the press conference following Arkansas’ 45 to 23 victory over Kansas State in Saturday’s Liberty Bowl. That much was evident from a question that normally wouldn’t elicit anything close to humor.

A few minutes in, reporters asked about the health of Razorback junior Dominique Reed, who suffered a head injury in the second quarter which looked very scary. The Camden native was immobilized and carted off the field.

Bret Bielema: I probably was a little bit oblivious, because when I went out there he was moving his arms, he was moving around. But he got knocked out, he was as out as out gets. That part was there. They just did an unbelievable job of precautions, in that situation didn’t get the right responses.

But he was in the locker room with us. He’s got a heckuva headache probably but he’s alive and well.

[He was] walking, talking – he smiled, he smiled at me. [pause, grins] Sometimes Dominique gives you a delayed response anyway so you just kind of got to get used to it.

Here are more excerpts from the press conference:

On new “Chrome Cardinal” helmets

Alex Collins: I just believe it gives you an extra edge. You know, look good, play good. We were out there feeling good, everybody’s watching, we got this chrome – it’s just a good feeling. I like it. I wish we could’ve done it a few more times this season.

Bret Bielema: I actually designed a helmet with that kind of color back when I was at my old school. When I left to come to Arkansas, and they didn’t let me coach in the Rose Bowl I took the helmet with me. [grins] So that design had been there for a while.

Sebastian Tretola: I was a little nervous about the helmets because the last time we tried tried to change up the uniform we lost three games so… [grins]
But, you know, it worked out. We won the game. They were awesome obviously and [pause] swagggyyy?

[looks at Bielema, laughing]

On Dan Enos:

Bret Bielema: He’s been an unbelievable godsend. He so well organized, detailed, planned. His relationship skills – it just makes it more fun environment and I’ve ever endured as a coach…

There’s kind of an ongoing saga. Every day then Skipper finds a new picture of Dan Enos on the Internet that kind of just makes him look worse and worse. And every day Matt, just really angry with his little glasses on. I saw one clear back from the high school days just the other day.

And then he tries to retaliate on the o-line. I don’t know how to stay neutral out of the whole thing.

He brings a lot to the table that has nothing to do with winning games, and he brings a lot to the table that has to do with winning games. He’s just so dialed in. Once him and BA got comfortable with what his skill set is, what he could handle and what he could do over the course of the game it’s been a skyrocket ship. It’s been off the charts.

Alex Collins on this touchdown run:

I was very determined. We wanted to put the game away and us scoring on that drive was what kind of put us over. Just seeing everybody’s faces and determination on that play made me feel like I had to to do my part and get this touchdown. I just fought hard to score for the team.

What Alex Collins has meant to the team

Brandon Allen: Alex ran hard all day. You’ve got to give credit to the guys who were blocking for him… He was breaking tackles, never going down, just really running hard on every single play. He really carried us in the second half and is definitely deserving of that [offensive] MVP.

Sebastian Tretola: The kid is unbelievable. He runs angry, he runs mad, the legs never stop and that and I think that adds to our mentality. The o-linemen keep going. Even if you miss your block, he might make that guy miss, so you better keep running because you might help him 20, 30 yards down the field.

Josh Liddell: As these guys said, watching Alex Collins run is unbelievable. As defensive guys we see him running out there, breaking tackles in fighting for every extra yard. That just fires us up and gets us pumped up and ready to play and play defense. It’s really fun to watch Alex run.

Alex: I feel honored. If you asked me the same thing, I would say the same thing about those guys. I would say those guys had a great game. I don’t like taking credit for anything because without the other 10 guys on the field I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything.

The o-line did a great job blocking for me, the tight ends as well, so I don’t take credit for anything. The seniors did a good job of motivating us and getting us ready to go. Sebastian does a great job every game…

Brett Bielema: Alex is playing as good a football as he’s ever played since being here. It’s been a steady crescendo in our program, and that’s what you should do. You should get better every day, every week, every year.

The part of his game that’s really improved this year is his overall toughness, his durability. I think Brandon Allen and some of the offensive players would tell you he’s really put it on the line a couple times for them in the pass protection which sometimes running backs don’t do.

He really drew closer to our team this year. He’s a really bright, engaging young man. This year he really took more of an ownership in the team than he ever had before, and it’s been awesome. He comes back with us next year, you’re probably looking at a Heisman candidate.

He could go down as not only one of the best players in Arkansas history but could be the first player in the SEC to run for at least 1000 yards and four straight years. If he goes on, the NFL’s gonna get a very good football player with a lot of growth and opportunity in front of him. I’m just blessed to have three years with him already.


 

Want more on Collins’ impending pro decision, why Jonathan Williams got back into the game and why Bielema thinks people still don’t give the SEC West enough credit? Get all that and the rest of the transcription from the press conference by signing up for my newsletter below:


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25 Sep

Texas A&M Fans Troll Arkansas w/ Finely Crafted Artisanal Products

The experience of being trolled is never an enjoyable one.  But if you must get made fun of (which is hard to avoid after losing home games to Toledo and Texas Tech), then the least the offender can do is provide the highest quality trolling possible.

Here, I am mildly happy to report, it appears Texas A&M fans are up to the task in advance of the Aggies’ tilt against Arkansas at Cowboy Stadium this Saturday. For starters, they devised the term #bertenfreude, one of the finer portmanteaus in recent SEC history.  It appears they also poured a goodly amount of time into a highly imaginative  helmet that is a mix between E.T.’s heart and Bret Bielema’s profile:

The folks at Good Bull Hunting say their magical glowing object is meant to mirror the early-season performance of Arkansas teams: “It shines bright during the offseason, but completely disappears once it’s on the field.”

Ouch. And yet – it kind of stings so good. 

A little down the totem pole, but still of fairly high quality, is the requisite Arkansas-directed bacon-related mockery. While such arrows are predictable, at least Good Bull Hunting had the decency to string them in a new way. This mockup of a specially-designed Arkansas game jersey includes bacon-patterned sleeve stripes. “Edible bacon cleats” were created to round out the entire outfit:

Bacon Shoe

Brittle porcine evocations don’t stop here.  

Elsewhere on Good Bull Hunting, fans have constructed an alternate universe in which UA alumns Jerry Jones and John Daly opened their own tavern and put the following drinks on the menu:

Bacontinis

Pretty juvenile, right? But it’s all in good, creative fun, even if some A&M fan comments are borderline deranged. Click on the below GIF to see what I mean.

Fgfzzl6

 

On the far end of the trolling spectrum is the 2014 book “Johnny Football.”  The author, Mike Shropshire, is by most accounts a legit sportswriter who has written for a lot of legit publications. His book is not self-published at all. Yet in his biography about Johnny Manziel Shropshire spends almost as much time insulting every program A&M plays against as he does telling Manziel’s story. With Arkansas, he launches forward with the following:

“Razorbacks fans introduced the league’s best-known game-day fashion statement, the red plastic Hawg Hats. Those were finally discontinued when it was discovered that Arkansas students were smuggling marijuana into games by concealing it in the snouts.”

After checking with some insiders, it appears the accuracy of this statement is dubious at best. And yet the Dallas-based Mike Shropshire casually throws it out as if it’s fact.  Later in the book, Shropshire keeps the propaganda rolling with incest jokes, poverty jokes and a reference to northwest Arkansas as the “primeval Ozarks.” He discusses Razorback fans’ “genuine pride” in “who they are” as an attribute of people everywhere who are “backwards and broke.” Then, for fun, he tells a story meant to substantiate this stereotype:

“A friend once told me that he had been in the army with a soldier who had grown up outside the town of Mountain Home, Arkansas. ‘First day of boot camp,’ he recalled, ‘they were handing out toothbrushes and the kid from Mountain Home looked at his and said, ‘What in the hell is thing thing?’”

I asked myself the same while reading Shropshire’s overall take on Arkansas.

It’s parody, I get it, and I don’t take his words seriously – although impressionable Dallas-area recruits may. Through the anti-Arkansas sentiment larding this book, I have come to realize there are different grades of trolling.

Even as an underdog Arkansas deserves better.


 

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14 Sep

Press Conference Transcript from Arkansas-Toledo (aka The MACastrophe)

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Bret Bielema after Arkansas’ 12-16 upset loss to Toledo last Saturday:

ON NOT BEING ABLE TO RUN

It’s on me. It’s on us as coaches. We got to give them a better plan. If we can execute it, a lot of times we get jammed up, have big people up in there and we just can’t move them. Teams are doing a lot of stunting on us, doing a lot of things last year and this year coming across their face and we’ve got to be able to wash those big guys down. We definitely got to get our front people playing a lot better at the point of attack.

ON PHYSICALITY

You know I hoped from what I’d seen, and what I believed, and what I thought was there, was we are a team that can play physically. You take the first two games, especially in our ability to run the football, and our answer would be no. Defensively we still had some good plays, and we made some nice hits, but overall they were still able to run the ball sometimes on third and short and fourth and short, and we can’t have that happen.

They were getting rid of it pretty quick… We were getting our hands up, thought we were going to get a tipped ball here or there, but sometimes that ball doesn’t exactly happen. There were so many times where it looks like we had some [pass break ups] and the ball is in the air, and it just kind of fell flat. Then we finally come up with one and it gets overturned upstairs. It was one of those days where the ball didn’t really bounce our way, but you’ve got to make it bounce your way in a game like today.

ON OFFENSE, THOUGH,  I know our [wide receivers] were on the ground a lot during intended routes. It’s going to be obviously up to us to correct and stay on our feet no matter what happened they got to be able to get there and be able to stay up.

ON GIVING TOLEDO PROPS

Toledo is very well coached and came here expecting to win and obviously they didn’t disappoint. The ones disappointed today were us, starting with myself… We really hang our hat on five edges that we built this thing on. We will continue to build it on moving forward. The fifth one is the most telling is you earn everything in life, you earn a victory and you earn a defeat. Today we earned that defeat by what we weren’t able to do and obviously allowed them to do.

ON ALL THOSE PENALTIES

I’m not a big stats guy. The only thing I worry about is the win and loss column, but to see the number of yards we gained, the time of possession, the first downs, we really didn’t turn the ball over but our one turnover was critical. Obviously it was in the red zone, and it swung huge momentum but also obviously left points off the board. The most frustrating thing was that came right after we just put it in the end zone and had points taken off the board because of the penalty. We had 9 penalties. They had 8, but our 9 penalties were absolutely critical, taking away yardage – a couple of them were on big plays… Last week we had six penalties and three of them were unforced on special teams. I believe we had four holding calls today if I’m not mistaken. A lot of times it’s just getting in the right position, finishing the block the right way, being lazy with your feet, and somebody’s starting to fall away from you and you just grab. We obviously got to eradicate that from our practice and eliminate from our games.

ON LEARNING FROM MISTAKES

The good news is they are very correctable. They will be corrected. All those things fall on my shoulders. I am embarrassed for our fans, the people who traveled today. For all the people in Little Rock here. This game means a lot to them. It means a lot to us. To not play well here for the second year in a row is very frustrating…

ON INJURIES

We also had some guys get banged up, injured. Everybody hopefully will come back out of that all right because we’re going to need the 70 guys that came over here today to get better in a hurry, starting with tomorrow’s practice. As far as the guys that got injured, I really don’t have any information on them. I know when I walked out to see [Eric] Hawkins, he was moving his hands and his extremities and stuff like that. I think it was just a pretty big precaution there. He had some pain in his stomach and also was a little light headed, so I don’t really know if there is anything more than that out there. We obviously had a couple guys suspended before the half – some guys that were a little late to our meetings on Friday. That’s why I suspended Jared [Cornelius] and Dominique Reed but those guys joined us in the second half… Alex [Collins] really hadn’t practiced with us since Wednesday. He spent Wednesday night in the ER. He had an infection that kind of got the better of him. He really didn’t practice until today but at times he flashed out there today. Rawleigh [Williams II] keeps coming along. Unfortunately we lost Kody [Walker] there. He jammed his thumb up a little bit. We didn’t think he could carry the football in the third and fourth quarters, so we got to continue that and just bring that along.  

Our number 1 team goal this year is zero distractions and if we were distracted today to start the game in any way, it was very evident that we weren’t ourselves in the first half. At times, we flashed back, but it just wasn’t good enough.

[UPDATE-KEON HATCHER SUFFERED A BROKEN FOOT WHICH WILL SIDELINE HIM AT LEAST SIX WEEKS]

ON OFFENSIVE LINE

We try to get our five best players on the field, there ain’t no doubt about that. I don’t feel any remorse in that regards but we’ve got to get our five players playing better. In this recruiting thing, this process, everybody wants to make a big deal over offensive line and we have done a nice job doing it. We probably have five and could throw [Brian Wallace] in there – six, maybe seven, guys that could be possibly SEC ready to play. In this league you need to have O-line depth just as much as you need D-line depth, and we’re of course just not there yet.

ON SCORING

I think we really got to look at our red zone package. Being able to run the football has got to be first and foremost. We can’t just keep taking shots in the end zone. Everything’s got to be coordinated there… We’re not going to win many games by scoring the amount of points we did today… we’ve got to execute better and clean up the blocking. There’s too many things that were in the running backs’ faces before they crossed the line of scrimmage.

ON MANAGING THE CLOCK

Well I think we got to take what they are giving you. We were throwing the football I think fairly well. For what we do and how we want to be able to manage a clock, we got to run the football a lot better than we did today…

ON TOLEDO’S OFFENSE

[Toledo] went through some deeper routes over the middle, I think, and they took advantage. They got inside us, some funnels, and some routes that we were trying to re-route over the top and got inside. Obviously any time you got a third and extra long, there’s no question we got to come up with a better package or better idea of what we can do to stop them.

ON THE NEAR TOUCHDOWN PASS IN THE CLOSING SECONDS

All of our coaches called it, as soon as we lined up, they said [Hunter] Henry was going to be open on the shake route. Obviously he was, and we just overthrew him a little bit and weren’t able to convert it but that’s kind of the story of the day. Touchdown opportunity is there and we missed it by about a foot.

ON FINISHING STRONG

Everybody strains on that last two minutes. We could have won that game so many times in the first half, maybe even the third quarter. We just weren’t able to do it. Everybody wants to concentrate on those last two minutes and I was actually halfway pleased with how we moved the ball there with 45 seconds… Our guys talked about how we had actually been in that same exact scenario two times in the last two weeks, practicing two minute [drills], and came away with a touchdown. I think they had some confidence going into it but we’ve got to play a fourth quarter game to make those games a win.

ON HOGS’ PUNT ATTEMPT GAFFE

He snapped the ball right over the guy’s head…  Drew just let the ball sail a little bit. Toby did a nice job even getting a hand on it. I thought he was going to be able to snake one off and get that out of there, but that was a huge, huge factor in the game. On the flip side of it, when we blocked that field goal and our offense went down there and scored I thought that took the momentum back…You have got to win these types of games, but we didn’t do enough in the end.

ON LACK OF DEPTH AT FULLBACK AND LINEBACKER

We’re still trying to train a few guys. I think the glaring thing we always have to think about as coaches during recruiting is a position that you traditionally you got to find a guy who can adapt to that role as fullback and middle linebacker. When Josh went down we had to move Brooksie over to Mike and put Dre in at Will. Those are two positions that we didn’t have a lot depth at is fullback and when Mike linebacker and it kind of shows its fleas now.


 

If you like these hyper-detailed interview excerpts, make sure to check out post-Toledo excerpts from B. Allen,  M.Smothers and R. Gaines through my email interview newsletter. More info here.


 

 

TOLEDO’S QB

…They did a great job of reading coverage. He for the most part threw some pretty clean balls that were only in a place where those players could catch it. I thought in the third and extra longs he was a very accurate thrower down the field. Which sometimes that doesn’t always go hand in hand. They came here with a really good plan.

ON PRESSURING TOLEDO’S QB PHILLIP ELY 

We kind of wanted to bring some things, brought some weak side pressures. I do think a little bit defensively we got on our heels a little bit, and we’ve got to get our confidence back to get those guys be attacking and pressing downhill. When we’re not, and if we’re standing at the line of scrimmage and just put our hands in the air, that’s not going to get it done. We’ve got to move the line of scrimmage and be able to play with our hands up on the quarterback’s throwing.

TIME TO PUT THAT “UNCOMMON” THEME IN MOTHBALLS?

It’s an uncommon thing in a bad way, probably. The thing that I really try to use that for is in recruiting and trying to develop a certain man, certain kind of character or kid that would withstand something exactly like this. They’re going to have all the reasons in the world for people to doubt and say certain things and I think you’ve got to look inside yourself. I really stress to our guys that we earned this loss today and it started with me. I think the part that we as a program have built ourselves on is you earn everything in life. We’ll do everything we can tomorrow to get this thing back on track and work our tails off during the week to get an opportunity to play Texas Tech and see where it goes.

CONCERN WITH PASS DEFENSE?

Yeah, absolutely. Anytime you give up some yards it’s a play that’s supposed to be like we did with some third and extra long, you can’t just pencil in on just one thing. I think past defense is affected by pass rush and pass rush a lot of times is affected by past defense. If they can cover them up maybe they can get half a second more pass rush and get the lay in on the quarterbacks, so it’s a little bit of everything and we’ll get our hand on it.

ON THE POSITIVE SIDE

It’s not a conference loss. There’s a silver lining in any of it. One of our big things is we talk about a 1-and-0 mentality. I was on a team at Kansas State when I was a young coach that lost to Marshall early in the year. We were ranked number five or six in the country and really got our tails handed to us that day pretty handedly. Went on to have a season that actually won a conference championship.

The 1-and-0 mentality everybody wants to talk about it when you’re rolling, but it’s really designed in rough times. It’s designed for when you don’t win and you got to focus on that next opportunity. Tomorrow will be a delicate balance between putting this game to bed and learning from the mistakes that we have to, but also moving forward.

… We got guaranteed ten more opportunities. Nobody’s going to be more ready to play us than Texas Tech this coming Saturday. Obviously to go on the road and have three straight games in the SEC is a challenge of itself. We’re going to have all kinds of different people with all different reasons firing shots at us. We’ve got to dig ourselves into our foxhole and the only one who can battle ourselves out of there is ourselves. 

For similar post-Toledo breakdowns from Brandon Allen, Mitch Smothers and Rohan Gaines, check out my new interview roundups newsletter here. Just scroll to the bottom. 

15 Nov

Why LSU & Arkansas Players Mock the Notion of a True Rivalry Between Them

http://www.hogdb.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/1910-Arkansas-LSU-Program-Edited.jpg

Despite the presence of seed, LSU-Arkansas could never really take root. via HogDB.com

Twenty two years after leaving the Southwest Conference for the SEC, Arkansas still doesn’t have a true conference rival. On paper, it should have been LSU, a perennial conference title contender (like Texas) bordering Arkansas (like Texas) that like Texas once prevented Arkansas from winning a national championship.

  Plus, the annual LSU-Arkansas series has had perks Texas-Arkansas never did: a regular spot on national TV during Thanksgiving weekend, the Bellagio of college football trophies in the 200-pound Golden Boot and no in-state rival like Texas A&M to stir Texas fans’ deepest passions (well, no Aggies for a while, anyway).

 On top of all that, LSU-Arkansas has recently produced games every bit as competitive and entertaining to watch as the great Hog-Longhorn showdowns of the 1960s. And it’s likely this Saturday’s game in Fayetteville, for which Arkansas is a 1 point favorite according to SportsBettingAcumen.com sites, produces yet another thriller.

  “It’s a rivalry game,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema told me in an interview for SB Nation. “The boot represents more than just a victory. It’s a battle between two states, something our fans take a lot of pride in. Obviously with LSU being the last game of the year there’s been a built-up rivalry here that we will hope to continue.”

   Bielema lauds the rivalry aspect of the game in public, just as previous Arkansas and LSU coaches and players have. It’s no secret, though, that the enmity true rivals have for each other has been lacking here.

   Take it from Matt Jones, the former Razorback quarterback responsible for the “Miracle on Markham,” possibly the series’ most memorable moment – a 31-yard Hail Mary pass to DeCori Birmingham with nine seconds left in the 2002 game that sent Arkansas to the SEC Championship game. The year before, Jones was on the opposite side as Arkansas lost a 41-38 contest sending the Tigers to Atlanta. “You knew it was a big game for whatever reason but there never ever seemed like there was a connection between Arkansas and LSU,” he says. “It was almost like it was a little bit forced on you.”

Jones says many of his teammates felt the same, as did LSU foes like running back LaBrandon Toefield. After college, Jones and Toefield were NFL teammates in Jacksonville, Fla. “We always joked” about how the series was played up, Jones says. Many LSU players “didn’t see it as a rivalry at all,” he recalls Toefield saying. “It was something the media put out.”

    Carter Bryant, an Arkansas native and LSU grad, is part of the media. Now a radio host in El Dorado, Ark., he’s covered Tiger football for four years and doesn’t understand why the rivalry hasn’t caught on more. “It means a good deal to people in south Arkansas and north Louisiana because of proximity,” he says.

    “But to the people of south Louisiana, it means little compared to other rivalries with trophies. LSU has pushed the Ole Miss rivalry over the years with the Magnolia Bowl trophy. Alabama with [Nick] Saban history has created a fascinating narrative plus instant classics. Every other team in the SEC West outside of Mississippi State is probably viewed as more heavily anticipated and vitriolic matchup in the minds of LSU fans.” That includes Texas A&M, which has supplanted Arkansas as the Tigers’ season finale. Not coincidentally, annual primetime showdowns with Texas A&M will help generate more profit for the SEC most years than an Arkansas matchup would.

  For now, Arkansas fans are as likely to hate Alabama, or Ole Miss, as LSU. Or even an SEC East program.  “The team that I hated the most was Tennessee,” Jones recalls. Jones, who grew up in Van Buren, points to one experience as the reason. He recalls as a nine-year-old hunting with his father and walking onto a cabin in the woods. Inside, people were watched TV and cheered. On the screen, the unranked Razorbacks were pushing the No. 4 Volunteers to the wire on the road. He’ll never forget the euphoria that followed watching Arkansas kicker Todd Wright’s 41-yard field goal sail through the uprights with two seconds left to give Arkansas its first victory in Knoxville, Tenn.

   Tennessee, though, already had Alabama and Florida as nemeses. Another SEC border state, Mississippi, had two in-state rivals. “Everybody kind of had a rival but us, so we had to manufacture one,” former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt says.

    Enter David Bazzel, an entrepreneur who has found a niche promoting Arkansas college athletics. Bazzel loves gold, and he loves football, and from all that love sprung the idea for this:

lsu-arkansas-the-boot-2012-570x379

Bazzel’s Golden Boot trophy, which depicts the two states’ outlines, debuted in 1996. He hoped its record-setting 4-foot plus height would help the game attract national attention and produce better competition. “It’s about playing for something, whether it be a paper clip, a rubber band or empty Coke can,” he says. In this case, “it just so happens to be a 200-pound trophy.”  He adds: “I wanted it to develop into a fun trophy game, not particularly a rivalry.”

Historically, most trophy games, of course, are based in rivalries. But that’s changing as power conferences create trophies for series involving program with little shared history. Usually these series involve states that don’t share borders,  like Nebraska-Wisconsin or South Carolina-Texas A&M, but the situation with Arkansas’ next SEC-sanctioned rival is different.

That would be Missouri, which replaces LSU as Arkansas’ regular season finale.

10 Oct

Bret Bielema: Darkhorse Candidate for Michigan’s Opening?

hokepointbielema

In the last seven years, the University of Arkansas has had arguably the most turbulent stretch of head coaching changes in all pro or college football. Razorback fans will certainly accede to this. The following word associations shall forevermore rub salt into their psychic wounds: Nutt, text gate, Malzahn, Mustain; Petrino, Dorrell, motorcycle, neck brace, red face (not from shame); John L. Smith, awkward, national, laughing, stock.

From a public outrage standpoint, though, none of the above fallouts would match what would happen if Bret Bielema left Fayetteville after this season. The idea that Arkansas’ most recent coach would pursue greener pastures after only two years seems far-fetched. But not far-fetched enough for one long-time Ohio State football writer to spend a full column on.

TheOzone.net’s Tony Gerdeman recently laid out a case for why Michigan should hire Bret Bielema to replace its current embattled coach Brady Hoke. Hoke, in case you haven’t heard, makes Will Muschamp’s tenure at Florida look more secure than a Chuck Norris handshake. This year (Hoke’s fourth) Michigan has lost four of six games including a 31-0 drubbing to Notre Dame – the first time the program’s been shut in 30 years.

Gerdeman argues since Bielema has already found success in the Big Ten (he had a 39-19 conference record as Wisconsin’s coach), he could do even better with a far richer program like Michigan. Other potential candidates have also been successful, but they don’t represent a return to the glory days of the Wolverines patriarch Bo Schembechler like Bielema could.

“He is the perfect fit for a program that wants to play football the way their ancestors played — between the tackles and on the ground. Few coaches have the track record that Bielema has when it comes to playing the type of football that Michigan thought they were getting with Brady Hoke. If they were to land Bielema, then they would finally be on the right track toward establishing the identity that they so badly want to portray.”

Finally, and most importantly, Bielema “is smug, arrogant and he hates Ohio State. If that’s not a Michigan Man, then I don’t know what is,” Gerdeman writes.

No doubt, Bielema hates himself some Buckeye. Any time, any place:

At Wisconsin, he beat Ohio State only once in six tries but Hayes Almighty what a loss! The Badgers’ 2010 win ruined Ohio State’s national title shot. Fourth-quarter issues plagued Wisconsin in many of those losses, as they have so far in the Hogs’ two SEC losses against Auburn and Texas A&M. If a fourth quarter meltdown proves the difference in Arkansas’ Saturday showdown against No. 7 Alabama, Bielema will start facing the same kind of local scrutiny he felt from Wisconsin fans and media during his last months in Madison.

Gerdeman then considers whether Bielema would actually want to leave Arkansas even if Michigan showed interest. He starts talking money, and this is where his argument breaks down.

He points out the Wolverines’ assistant Doug Nussmeier makes $200,000 more at Michigan than he did at Alabama, and insinuates the Wolverines have deep enough pockets to lure practically anybody they want to Ann Arbor.

This is Big Ten-centric thinking. Yes, Ohio State and Michigan make much more money off football than most SEC schools, but that doesn’t mean they are investing the same percentage of their “profit” (revenue-expenditures) into football as schools in the middle of the SEC pack like Arkansas. Additionally, the numbers below show that Arkansas is on par – and in some cases superior to – Michigan when it comes to investing in its football program:

Arkansas

Michigan

$99,770,840 Athletic Dept Total Revenue* $143,514,125
$92,131,933 Athletic Dept Total Expenditures $131,018,311
$3.2 million avg. per yr / 6 yrs** Head FB coach contract $3.25 million avg. per yr / 6 yrs
$3.2 million Head FB coach salary 2014 $2.3 million***
$3,205,000 circa Feb. 2014 FB Staff Salary 2014 $3,072,000 circa Dec. 2013
Jim Cheney, OC, $550,000Robb Smith, DC, $500,000Sam Pittman, OC, $500,000 Highest Paid FB Assistants Greg Mattison, DC, $835,000Doug Nussmeier, OC, $830,000

Yes, Michigan has shown it’s willing to pay its very top assistants more money than most other schools. And yes, with $25.3 million coming into its football program as donations from an enormous alumni base, it would be willing to pay off any buyout clause necessary to get the coach it wants – including Bielema’s $2.5 million price tag.

But those aren’t nearly strong enough reasons for Bielema to uproot after a mere two years getting acclimated to the SEC. His primary reason for coming to Arkansas was to get a shot at the big boys. The burning competitor in Bielema wants to know how he measures up as a head coach against the very best.

If he, his staff and his recruits try their best, and after five or six years they don’t measure up, then he can one day retire knowing he at least didn’t shy away from his sport’s greatest challenge. Gerdeman wrote Michigan’s imminent opening would give Bielema “an opportunity to get the hell out of the SEC, specifically the SEC West. Coaching in the SEC is too hard because every school is always trying to win.”

Sorry, but no.

The fact every SEC school is “always trying to win” is the main draw to coaching there in the first place.


*The most recent data reported as of summer 2014.

** Both coaches’ contracts are loaded with a mind-numbing array of opportunities to earn more.

*** Last year, Hoke banked well over $4 million dollars but that was because of a $1.5 million “stay bonus” paid following the season and a $1.05 million payout for “deferred compensation,” according to mlive.com.

24 Sep

Bret Bielema Embraces the Gecko, Breaks with All Kinds of Convention

Think the modern big time college football coach is entirely beholden to the corporate powers backing him? You best think again.

Think modern big time college football coaches are entirely beholden to the corporate powers backing him? You best think again.

For someone hailing from the breadbasket of America, Illinois native Bret Bielema sure knows how to cut against the grain.  The second-year Arkansas head football coach has most famously eschewed the up-tempo philosophy adopted by so many of his peers to build a fearsome, old-school running game that has transformed the Razorbacks into the nation’s best slow-down* offense, and sixth-best overall.

The question of how good 3-1 Arkansas really is will be answered this Saturday when Hogs, who have cracked CBS Sports’ Top 25, take on undefeated, No. 4 Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas. Buoyed by an unexpectedly strong defense, the Aggies have crushed each of their four opponents including South Carolina on the road. In his third season at Texas A&M, head coach Kevin Sumlin has his up-tempo Aggies clicking on all cylinders, churning out 612.5 yards a game under the direction of quarterback Kenny Hill, as surprising an Heisman Trophy candidate now as Johnny Manziel was almost two years ago.

Arkansas is a 9 point underdog but whether it wins or loses on Saturday, one thing’s for sure: Bielema’s not changing tact any time soon. He’s not falling in line with the Malzahn and Sumlin-ites around him. Indeed, sometimes he’s contrarian without even intending to be. For evidence, look no farther than his post-game press conference after Arkansas’ 52-14 decimation of Northern Illinois last weekend.

In it, Bielema’s does his thing, talking in rapid fire fashion and making reporters chuckle with quick asides, when he starts praising his team’s special teams effort. He lauds kickoff specialist Adam McFain, an unrecruited walk on who’s on the brink of also becoming Arkansas’ long-range field goal kicker. Then, with the signage of Razorback athletics sponsor Farm Bureau Insurance behind him as usual, he describes a couple defensive special teams formations unveiled against the Huskies because “we knew they would take some chances in the kicking game.”

The first is “a punt safe look” he tells the reporters is called “Allstate.” As in Allstate Insurance Company.

Then, with that Farm Bureau signage still behind him, he praises freshman cornerback Henre’ Tolliver for making a clutch tackle of Northern Illinois’ quarterback on a 4th-down running attempt. So what was the defensive formation called on that play?

Geico. Yet another insurance company not named Farm Bureau.

geico

The Hogs used this "Geico" formation to stymie Northern Illinois' fake punt kick attempt.

This Geico formation insures against fake punt success.

Bielema and his staff could have easily labeled one of their formations “Farm Bureau,” but I find the fact they didn’t to be marginally refreshing. Major college football is such big money these days, with so many corporate ties, it’s nice to see that the names of coaches’ plays and formations don’t have sponsorship tie-ins.

Not yet, at least.  As long-time Arkansas sportswriter Nate Allen noted, Razorback athletics have “operated in increasingly corporate fashion since 2008 when Jeff Long replaced longtime athletic director Frank Broyles.” Indeed, the University of Arkansas recently trademarked the “Hog Call,” its sports teams’ nearly century-old cheer.

Such revenue pursuit, of course, follows in line with other major college football programs because every other school – especially in the brutal SEC West – is pouring more and more tens of millions of dollars into its most lucrative sport. But the business logic is sound: With enough winning, those tens of millions of investment can lead to tens of millions of profit. That’s why Texas A&M looms as a pivotal game for a rising Arkansas program. Bielema knows, too. He said last weekend his players have shown “a certain mentality and attitude that has not been here since I’ve been here.”

If that translates into the Hogs’ winning on Saturday by slowing the nation’s most deadly offense**, and in the process shocking pundits around the nations – then the players’ deeds will match their already sky high confidence.  And, so long as SEC wins result, Arkansas’ corporate sponsors should hardly care what’s written on the pages of a playbook.


*Arkansas ranks as far and away the nation’s most deadly methodical offense (which takes into account the team’s % of drives with at least 10 plays), according to the number crunchers at Football Outsiders.

** Texas A&M has the nation’s most efficient offense, when measuring ” its actual drive success against expected drive success based on field position.”

Via Football Outsiders

Want to know what the hell the above abbreviations mean? Here’s some light shed, thanks to Football Outsiders:

  • OFEI: Offensive FEI, the opponent-adjusted efficiency of the given team’s offense.
  • OE: Offensive Efficiency, the raw unadjusted efficiency of the given team’s offense, a measure of its actual drive success against expected drive success based on field position.
  • Ex: Explosive Drives, the percentage of each offense’s drives that average at least 10 yards per play.
  • Me: Methodical Drives, the percentage of each offense’s drives that run 10 or more plays

N.B.  You’ll notice above Arkansas’ record is 2-1, not 3-1. That’s because stats from Arkansas 73-7 win over FCS foe Nicholls State don’t count here.  The numbers above are filtered to eliminate games against FCS opponents, first-half clock-kills and end-of-game garbage drives and scores.

21 Mar

How All Those New Arkansas Football Coaches Bond

Few coaches tower over Bret Bielema. Rory Segrest is one of them.

Few coaches tower over Bret Bielema. Rory Segrest is one of them.

Arkansas football’s struggles last season are well chronicled. Mention of its nine losses, winless conference record and back-to-back 0-52 shellackings to the hands of South Carolina and Alabama are sure to darken the mood of even the most optimistic Hog supporters. But there’s at least one fan not falling into line here. “Some people look at a 3-9 record as a downer,” says head football coach Bret Bielema. “But I find it more exhilarating than anything you could ever find.”

 Wait, what?

 Bielema points to the improvement Arkansas showed in its last four games, when it played opponents increasingly tighter and ended the year with  a four-point loss to No. 14 LSU. Over that span his players executed better and cut back on the mental lapses which had plagued the young team earlier in the season. The Hogs finished as the SEC’s least penalized team vs. other Southeastern Conference foes.  These early signs of a turnaround also give a master recruiter like Bielema a selling point. They help form a narrative appealing to the competitive nature of the top high schools players he most wants to sign. In essence, he wants them to buy into the prospect of building a legacy rather than preserving one. Hog coaches emphasize to recruits the part they could play in helping lead Arkansas to its first SEC title. Bielema says he tells recruits: “If you want to come and be apart of something at Arkansas that’s never been done before, and you want to build off the foundation of a 3-9 record, then I got something for you.

   For Arkansas to win a championship, its defense – which last season ranked No. 76 nationally and No. 9 in the SEC – must improve. Up front, three of four starting defensive linemen have left but All-SEC Trey Flowers returns for his senior season. As for linebackers, Bielema adds:,  “I do think we have a good group that we can piecemeal together. I think Brook Ellis showed us some good things. I think Martrell Spaight and Braylon Mitchell – those three guys will probably be your top three candidates” for starting positions.

  Bielema predicts the secondary, which ranked as the SEC’s worst pass defense against conference foes, will “absolutely” improve from 2013 when it allowed SEC opponents to complete more than 70 percent of passes. He cites added size, strength and quickness as one reason, along with more aggressive tactics that include challenging wide receivers more often at the line of scrimmage. There’s also an infusion of ideas from new defensive backs coach Clay Jennings, who was hired in February from Texas Christian University.

  On the field, Jennings is charged with shoring up the defense’s weakest area. Off the field, he’s expected to go on the offensive in the program’s most important out-of-state recruiting territory – Texas. It takes only a glimpse at the best teams in program history – including the 1964 national championship squad – to confirm this. For its most recent signing class, though, Arkansas coaches signed only two of the roughly 25 Texans they had recruited.

  Bielema’s confident that percentage will rise. He sent five staff members to recruit Texas last winter and believes the fruit of those efforts will be seen in upcoming signing classes. And Jennings, a Waco, Tex. native with a decade’s worth of coaching experience in the state, should strengthen Arkansas’ pull there, Bielema adds. “Any ties he has, we’re going to lean on those.”

  Jennings is one of three new Arkansas defensive coaches. At the top is defensive coordinator Robb Smith, a 38-year-old who last year coached linebackers for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Joining him is new defensive line coach Rory Segrest, who coached the same position at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. “Rory’s a little guy,” Bielema says, tongue in cheek. “He walks into the room and he’s about 6-foot-6 with a size 18 shoe. I hired him because I didn’t want to be the biggest guy on the staff anymore.”

  Bielema is pleased with how his coaches have built off last season’s late momentum toward the April 26th Red-White Spring Game: “I’m excited about where our staff is right now. We’re really cranking into high gear.” He also knows the more his coaches trust each other, the faster their program will accelerate. To that end, he organizes mixers to help his new coaches get to know each other. For instance, Bielema reserved a suite for his coaches at a February 28th Hogs baseball game in Fayetteville. “My hope is that my [defensive] line coach ends up sitting next to my wide receivers coach and although they hadn’t known each other, maybe they get to know each other a little bit more. It makes things a little bit better.”

 Bielema also organizes other off-season outings that include players, too. He points to examples that naturally revolve around competition: bowling, slow-pitch softball, three-point shooting contests.

  Perhaps it’s appropriate these Razorbacks hone such skills together. Most onlookers, after all, consider them as long shots to win a lot of games any time soon. But that doesn’t faze Bielema. When he’s wooing recruits, selling them on his vision for a great turnaround, he need not ask them to strain their imaginations. They know the 2013 SEC championship game, after all, was played between Missouri and Auburn – two programs with a total of two SEC wins the year before.

The above article originally printed in the March/April issue of Arkansas Money and Politics

ARMoneyPoliticsLogo-2

06 Jan

Trey Flowers Keeps Pursuing His Dream of Chasing His Razorback Dreams

trey flowers

All-SEC Trey Flowers pursues quarterbacks and, apparently, transhuman forms of consciousness.

Press releases.

God bless the fine sports information men and women who have to crank ’em out and the coaches and student-athletes who have to say something, anything really, to make them look more official.

It’s a fairly standard process that keeps the entire sportswriting-industrial complex humming along. Sometimes, though, there’s a glitch in the system. Somebody’s not quite on their “A game” when it comes to clearly thinking about what to say, or to write.

The result can be words that stretch the limits of logic to a breaking point. Case in point is today’s press release from the University of Arkansas  that nearly sent my mind into a metaphysical tailspin. The statement declares star defensive end Trey Flowers is returning for his senior season to anchor the Razorbacks’ line. “I’m very excited for Trey and not just his immediate future, but for everything down the road,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema pronounced.

Bielema should be excited about Flowers’ immediate future. Not only is the Alabama native returning as a second-team All-SEC player who has superb on-the-field awareness, but it’s possible he’s tapped into another dimension altogether.  Bielema said Flowers told him he’d decided to forego entering the 2014 NFL Draft because “he wanted to maintain and pursue his dream of playing and chasing his dreams here at Arkansas for another year.”

Pursuing a dream of chasing dreams? I don’t exactly know what that means. I’m pretty sure it means there’s a lot of dreaming going on. Beyond that, if I had to guess, I’d say it Bielema is trying to tell us young Trey also has the ability to meta-dream, a quality typically ascribed to techno-saviors of mankind who can flit between alternate realities and download their consciousnesses into avatars – you know, that sort of thing.

Bottom line: Flowers is still very much plugged into the program at a time when it desperately needs him. And that’s something for Hog fans to cheer about.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqxwtEdxOCw&w=420&h=315]

Proof I’m not a dirty liar:

Flowers Announces Return For 2014 Season

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers announced Monday he was returning to the Razorbacks for his senior season after considering early entry into the NFL Draft.

“I have made the decision to stay at Arkansas for my senior season,” Flowers said. “Coach Bielema was very supportive throughout the process and helped me and my family navigate this decision. I still have goals on and off the field I want to accomplish at Arkansas, beginning with graduating, and want to continue pursuing those. On the field, I am excited about the program being built and wanted to help the Razorbacks back in 2014. Even though my draft grade was good, I believe another year with Coach Bielema will help improve my draft status. I am looking forward to another season at Arkansas, where we have support from our administration, some of the best fans in the nation and a bright future for the football program.”

A second-team All-SEC selection in 2013, Flowers finished the season with 44 tackles, including 13.5 for loss with 5.0 sacks, three forced fumbles, one interception, two pass breakups and five quarterback hurries. His average of 1.23 tackles for loss per game ranks second in the SEC and 35th in the NCAA, and his tackles for loss total is tied for third in the conference. His tackles for loss accounted for 58 yards lost, the ninth-highest total in the SEC. He recorded 9.5 tackles for loss in conference play, which ranked fourth in the SEC. The Huntsville, Ala., native also is tied for second in the conference and for 23rd in the country with three forced fumbles.

Through his first three seasons as a Razorback, Flowers has recorded 122 tackles, 32.0 for loss with 12.0 sacks, 17 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles, seven pass breakups and one interception. He is tied for 11th on Arkansas’ career tackles for loss list and is tied for 16th on the school’s career sacks list. In addition to his All-SEC inclusion in 2013, he also was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2011. The economics major has earned recognition on the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll and the Razorback Honor Roll for his work in the classroom.

“I’m very excited for Trey and not just his immediate future, but for everything down the road,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “I went through this process, going back to last spring when I first sat down with him and his parents to talk about exactly where he was and where we thought we could get him. Then we’d have a decision to make. I really kept them in the loop as much as we could. I talked to his parents several times throughout the course of the year. Trey came in as I expected after the end of the regular season and we sat down. We filled out the information. We did a telephone conference with his father. I said we’d wait for the grades. We got our grades in, and I believe I was notified on Jan. 1. Last Friday afternoon I flew over to Alabama and myself and Coach (Ben) Herbert sat down, went through about 15 documents with Trey and his mom and dad, the information that I gathered for him to make an informed decision. Thankfully he notified us shortly thereafter and said he wanted to maintain and pursue his dream of playing and chasing his dreams here at Arkansas for another year. He’ll be able to get his degree and hopefully move his draft status that much more for the future.”