FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema addressed the media Monday as his team prepares for spring practice beginning Tuesday.
Here’s the rundown of what Bielema had to say:
- Bielema says the team had “accountability” off the field during the winter with workouts, meetings and classes. He says he had the least amount of tardiness he’s ever had.
- Arkansas had spring break last week and Bielema says the “only casualty we had” was tight end Jack Kraus spraining his ankle playing volleyball in Honduras.
- Linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who is still recovering from foot surgery, will serve as a “mini assistant coach” for the Razorbacks this spring. Tight end Grayson Gunter, who has shoulder surgery in the winter, will also be limited. Other than that, the team has no notable injuries.
- Bielema on implementing the 3-4 defense: “I’m not a guy who likes to throw a lot of stuff out there and see what works. I like to find one thing and do it really well.”
- The defense now has outside linebacker spots called “Razor” and “Hog” with “Mike” and “Will” as middle linebackers. Bielema says the Razor will be a hybrid outside linebacker/safety and the Hogs will be more of an outside linebacker/defensive lineman.
- Karl Roesler is one of two or three guys on the roster who will be worked as both a defensive lineman and outside linebacker to see where he fits best.
- Bielema lists Deon Stewart, T.J. Hammonds, LaMichael Pettway, Jonathan Nance and Brandon Martin as guys that need to be involved in the offense at wide receiver next season. He later adds redshirt freshman Jordan Jones nearly played last season because they felt he could give the team things no one else could, even with several seniors on the roster. Once it was decided he would redshirt, Jones “proceed to light it up” in practice playing the role of each opponents best receiver. Bielema’s only complaint on Jones is he would like to see him become a little more serious.
- Bielema says when they switch to a nickel package to bring an extra defensive back on the field they can leave either the Razor or Hog on the field depending on the situation. Bielema likes how versatile the 3-4 can be.
- Bielema on redshirt freshman quarterback Cole Kelley: “Cole lacks nothing in confidence.” He adds Kelley is among the most competitive players on the team, but felt like he relaxed and lost his urgency once it became apparent he would redshirt last season. Kelley had back surgery at the end of last season and has recovered, yet Bielema adds at his size (6-foot-7, 258 pounds) he is likely to always have some potential back issue they must take care of.
- Senior center Frank Ragnow “is as good as I’ve had” at the position, Bielema says. He feels good about the direction of the offensive line with six players that have started a SEC game. “It’s going to be a fun thing to see those guys work.” Bielema adds he’s also very high on the three freshman. He thinks Shane Clenin in particular “has a chance” to be a great player and can play any position on the offensive front. Bielema anticipates all of them potentially playing next season.
- Senior defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson spent spring break in Fayetteville rehabbing a quad injury he suffered in winter workouts. Bielema says he is the leading candidate among his seniors who he expects to make a big jump in commitment for the 2017 season.
- Bielema feels “a couple” of the defensive backs they signed in the 2017 class could come in and play right away.
- Senior defensive back Kevin Richardson II is capable of playing any position in the defensive backfield, but Bielema says for now he’ll primarily be used at cornerback.
- Bielema list these players as those who stood out with their development in winter workouts: Hjalte Froholdt (OL), Deion Malone (OL), C.J. O’Grady (TE), Brandon Martin (WR), Jonathan Nance (WR), Deon Stewart (WR), Devwah Whaley (RB), Ty Storey (QB), Jonathan Marshall (DL), Bijhon Jackson (DT), Sosa Agim (DE), Dwayne Eugene (LB), Randy Ramsey (LB), Dee Walker (LB), Santos Ramirez (S), De’Andre Coley (S).
- Bielema’s initial reaction to the possibility of guns at sporting events in Arkansas was “concern,” particularly with recruiting. He says when he goes around the country and talks to families he realized that may be something that gets brought up. He says for now he’ll sit back and wait to see what happens.
- Bielema says recruiting has gone great this winter and spring. He feels he has the best recruiting coaching staff he’s ever had. So far, Arkansas has four commits in the 2018 class, and Bielema says all of those players were the top priority at their position.
- Tight end Anthony Antwine is no longer with the program. He is “doing better” while “working through some issues” and will be allowed to stay on scholarship.
- Wide receiver D’Vone McClure is also no longer with the team. Bielema says he wanted to move on and focus on other things.