Below is the second of a two-part transcription of Bret Bielema’s 2015 season recap. You will learn about an emerging Chicago-Arkansas recruiting pipeline, injury updates on Josh Williams and Dominique Reed and Bielema’s dream of opening Ye Olde Egg Nog Shoppe (above photo is courtesy of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.).
On the recruiting reach of the Hogs’ new offensive line coach, a native Chicagoan:
There’s a lot of good players in the Midwest that have been very successful. Not only in the Midwestern colleges, but also in the SEC. I think we play against Alabama and there’s a [Ross] Pierschbacher kid that I remember came out of Iowa that we all wanted. He’s a very good player for Alabama right now. There’s players up there, Frank Ragnow comes out of Minnesota.
I think about our offensive line. Someone thought they’re all southern kids. You had a tackle from Miami, a guard from California, a center from here, a guard from Minnesota and a tackle was Denver. We’ve got them all over the country and that’s just what we’ve got to continue to do.
On the appeal of playing for Arkansas to kids in Chicago
Bret Bielema: I do. I think the kids love the SEC. We wen 8-2 in bowl games. Kids realize that stuff. There’s more kids playing in the Senior Bowl from the SEC than any other conference. Those things matter and it makes a difference.
On how many new scholarship players Arkansas will likely sign:
Bret Bielema: I think we’re going to get to 24 for sure. I think I’ll probably go to 25, to be quite honest. The by-product of having 3 juniors come out is you have 3 more scholarships become available. We had a couple scholarship players graduate early like Reeve Koehler. When he leaves out that presents an opportunity. All those things I couldn’t forecast a year ago at this time.
Bret Bielema: My vision is to do 12 offense, 12 defense and 1 coach’s discretion. The last 3 coach’s discretion have been 3 kids from Arkansas that have been — Korliss [Marshall] obviously loved to indulge in some things we couldn’t — but he was a good player. The next one was Josh Liddell. I think those guys have proved their worth and what they’re capable of doing.
On his starring role in the new reality TV-style series “Being Bret Bielema”
Bret Bielema: Really, the presentation. Thad and some people had kind of gotten together. I think it started with Chris, did it not? Some people said, “Coach, there’s some things about you that don’t ever get out there.” I haven’t done anything. All I do is slip on a mic and just be me. I’m getting beaten up left and right with my college buddies. Recruits love it. The amount of hits that I’ve gotten and the responses that I’ve gotten from recruits and coaches and donors. It’s amazing to me, but it’s also been a lot of fun. I don’t know where it’s going to end. I think they’re going to pop on the road with me for a couple days. We’ll make sure to follow the … because there’s certain things that you’ve got to do.
I watched the first one a while ago. I hadn’t seen the second one until I had enough people telling me all about it, so I watched it last night. They’d cut some things. I was just having some fun with some K State people there. Just different things. They’re doing a really good job with it…. I’m a big guy in the eggnog thing. If you’d ask my wife, I just think it’s ridiculous we can only have eggnog one month out of the year. Anybody that’s been around me knows that’s one of my pet peeves in life.
I am going to open an eggnog store. I think that’s a good thing…
On Josh Williams‘ health
Bret Bielema: Unfortunately, Josh had another procedure. He’s lost a pretty significant amount of that calf muscle. It’s unfortunately one of the bad parts of our profession and part of our job. He’s really going to struggle to get back to a point of walking and doing things functionally again as a normal person. Hopefully, he’s going to be able to play football again someday, but it’s probably a long ways away from that being able to happen. We’ll address it.
He wasn’t able to go home until last week. He had been in the hospital again when we were in Memphis. He didn’t join us until Wednesday or Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately, just a lot of by-product off of that surgery.
Right now, he’s not ready for Spring ball and I don’t expect it to be for Spring. Let me tell you if he could get cleared for Fall football I’d be the biggest, happiest fan of Josh’s in the world. I just don’t know if it’s going to be possible. It’s a bridge that we’re going to have to cross together. If he can’t do, I’d be the first to hire him as a linebacker assistant and let him be involved in every way possible. He has truly been one of the greatest blessings for us. He’s a A-B student. He does everything right. He can play all 3 positions. He’s an absolute coach’s dream.
On tight end Jeremy Sprinkle’s potential:
Bret Bielema: Well, [Jeremy] Sprinkles going to be the first to tell you. He hasn’t even scratched the surface. He’s probably the most creative touchdown celebration, but that’s about all he’s got as a No. 1 spot right now. I think we can get him to 260. I think he could be 10 pounds heavier than he is. I think he’d be the first to tell you he was committed 75% of the time. I need a full 100% commitment out of him because if he can give me a year of his life like he’s never had, I’ll give him the next 30 that are pretty good.
I was talking to one NFL coach who had watched our game the day before and their head coach and him and a couple other of their VP’s were there with their GM and they said, “Can we get both those tight ends to play for us tomorrow in the NFL?” Hunter and him have got all the things that you want. I think we could probably have two of the best tight ends in back-to-back years that anybody could produce, but I need a bigger commitment out of Sprink. I mean from diet to sleep to behavior to accountability to responsibility to everything. He’ll get it. His dad and I will get it. I guarantee it.
On overall position depth:
Bret Bielema: I think linebacker depth is a concern of mine in the Fall and Spring so one would tell you that an ideal shooting number for us is 4. I’d love to get 3 high school and a JUCO. The magic number on defense for sure is kind of 3 to 4 at every position. On offense, even though we lost only 1 tight end, he’s a great one, but we signed a number of tight ends a year ago. Wide receiver, we got a fix number. Running back is intriguing because obviously losing 2 backs in the NFL draft — it’s fun to talk about but it’s really not great to live through.
But Kody, Rawleigh, I think the emergence of hopefully J-Day, I think we’ve done a nice job in recruiting. We’re in some of the most elite backs I’ve ever been involved with and they’re saying a lot of really good things. Those things are yet in front of us. It should be a fun two weeks. We’re fixing ready to hop in the last two weeks of recruiting. It’s probably one of the more enjoyable times for me as a head coach – just to get some finality to certain situations.