Arkansas coach Bret Bielema kicked off SEC Media Days on Monday morning in Hoover, Ala.
Bielema was originally slated to take the stage first because he and his wife, Jen, were expecting the brith of their first child later this week. The baby was born Saturday morning.
So, the new dad took the stage as scheduled to preview the 2017 season. Senior captains Austin Allen, Frank Ragnow and Kevin Richardson II have joined Bielema at SEC Media Days.
Here’s the rundown of everything Bielema had to say while on stage Monday:
- Bielema addresses the blown leads in the second half against Missouri and Virginia Tech to end last season: “Too many things accounted for that. First thing you have to understand is why it happened. We have made changes and we’ll own it.” He adds he’s never ended a season on a “downward spiral” like that. “We’re going to concentrate more on what we need to do in the second half of games to win. Not what we need to do not to lose.”
- Arkansas will start fall camp earlier (July 28) than most programs because the Hogs play their season opener on Thursday of Week 1. Bielema likes the schedule because the Thursday game gives them extra time to prepare for TCU in Week 2, and because no opponent gets a bye week before facing them.
- Bielema is looking forward to “growing” the Missouri rivalry more. He indicates he’s even discussed the possibility of setting up a high school all-star game between Arkansas and Missouri to help fuel the rivalry a little bit.
- Former South Carolina running back David Williams is joining the Razorbacks as a graduate transfer eligible this season. Bielema says he found out about Williams from former South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. Bielema says Williams is mature and talented. The Hogs had no issues with South Carolina trying to prevent him from transferring to a fellow SEC school. The two teams will play Oct. 7 in Columbia, S.C.
- Bielema says junior college defensive line signee Melvin Johnson will not make it by this fall, but could by December.
- Safety signee Montaric Brown, the top in-state player in the 2017 class, is expected to make it on campus soon. Bielema says he is “so close” and if not in the next couple weeks, he should be arriving before classes begin in August.
- Bielema calls Ragnow not only the best center he’s ever coached, but maybe the best offensive lineman. He’s made similar statements in the past eight months or so, but it’s worth noting again because he’s coached some really good ones.
- Interesting that Bielema says he knew about a week after he hired Paul Rhoads in the spring of 2016 he’d be his next defensive coordinator. He’s indicated in the past he had that possibility in mind, but this is the first time he’s said he “knew” that would be the case. That makes it sound like Bielema had little confidence former defensive coordinator Robb Smith was the man for the job. Clearly, it didn’t work out with Smith being let go and now at Minnesota.
- Bielema goes on the SEC Network set and says he’s calling Briella, his newborn daughter, “Two” because he “now has two beautiful women in his life.”
- Bielema on what Briella’s first word will be: “Probably momma.”
- Bielema accidentally “butt dialed” commissioner Greg Sankey shortly after Briella was born. It was on FaceTime and Sankey responded with: “What are you doing calling me?”
- He says he’ll encourage his daughter to do a lot of things, but “playing football ain’t one of them.” He does say he encourages parents to let their high school kids play. However, he admits there are still areas the game needs to become safer. As a member of the rules committee, he says “we have changed the way kids play football” for the better. “That’s really cool. We constantly have to be on the forefront of protecting our players.”
- Bielema on the recent retirement of running back Rawleigh Williams III: “What I’ve learned from Rawleigh Williams, you can’t put into words.”
This story will be updated.