New dad an old pro in front of mi­cro­phone

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - WALLY HALL

HOOVER, Ala. — He was not pre­dictable.

Bret Bielema made only two com­ments about be­ing a new dad. Most new dads can’t keep their mouths shut af­ter the birth of a child, es­pe­cially the first, but the Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville head coach was mostly all busi­ness as he kicked off SEC foot­ball me­dia days.

It wasn’t un­til the me­dia started ask­ing ques­tions that the sub­ject of fa­ther­hood came up. Bielema and his wife, Jen, had their first child, Briella Ni­c­hole, early Satur­day morn­ing.

First, draw­ing off his 2014 com­ment that beat­ing Texas was an al­most erotic ex­pe­ri­ence, he was asked how he would feel about beat­ing Texas A&M for the first time.

“I know ev­ery­one is look­ing for a quote, but I don’t think I can get much bet­ter than that one,” Bielema said. “That was be­fore I had a child.”

Then he was asked di­rectly about be­ing a new dad.

“I’m 48 hours into this baby,” he said. “I can’t say I’m well-versed.”

Those ques­tions oc­curred in what is called the main me­dia room, which is pri­mar­ily for print pub­li­ca­tions. TV and ra­dio folks can at­tend, but this year they aren’t al­lowed to ask ques­tions dur­ing that ses­sion be­cause they have their own time with the coaches and play­ers.

Bielema was mostly on point, al­though a lit­tle of the old nose guard came out in him dur­ing his seg­ment with the TV peo­ple when he was asked if he felt any ex­tra pres­sure go­ing into this sea­son. He fired back in an in­stant: “No, do you?”

No one, in­clud­ing Bielema, was happy with the way the sea­son ended when the Ra­zor­backs blew big half­time leads in losses to Mis­souri and Vir­ginia Tech.

That may have made some fans un­happy, but there cer­tainly hasn’t been any se­ri­ous talk of Bielema be­ing on a hot seat. Den­nis Dodd of CBSs­ports.com re­cently rated ev­ery Divi­sion I head coach in re­la­tion to job se­cu­rity on a scale of 0-5, with 0 be­ing the best. Dodd gave Bielema a 2.

Part of that may be be­cause of Bielema’s ten­dency to be so hon­est and to ad­dress con­cerns.

When asked about those sea­son-end­ing losses, he ad­mit­ted it made him look at his coach­ing staff. He didn’t point fin­gers, but de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Robb Smith is now at Min­nesota and de­fen­sive line coach Rory Se­grest’s con­tract was not re­newed.

Then he looked at the play­ers, which led to the de­ci­sion that with so much tal­ent at line­backer, the Ra­zor­backs would switch to a 3-4 de­fen­sive scheme.

Mon­day was the type of me­dia ses­sion Bielema al­ways han­dles well, as did player rep­re­sen­ta­tives quar­ter­back Austin Allen, cen­ter Frank Rag­now and de­fen­sive back Kevin Richard­son.

Allen, who has let his hair grow — “The long­est it has ever been by a long shot,” he said — and looks like he could be the fa­vorite on The Bach­e­lorette, was to­tally at ease and proudly wore a lapel but­ton the SEC gave him for al­ready grad­u­at­ing col­lege.

Rag­now talked about how the team was like a fam­ily and you take care of fam­ily. He also said last year’s sack to­tal, which took a toll on Allen, was un­ac­cept­able.

Richard­son mar­veled at work­ing his way from walkon to speak­ing at me­dia days.

Ev­ery­one was re­laxed and com­fort­able.

Bielema even asked our man Tom Murphy where he got his shirt and later asked Bob Holt why he didn’t ask a ques­tion. Holt, who has cov­ered this event for 26 years, is known for his dili­gence as a reporter, and it is be­lieved that was the first ses­sion he at­tended when he didn’t have a ques­tion.

Bielema and Co. kicked off SEC foot­ball me­dia days, and he was not like a new dad but a vet­eran coach who knows the ropes.

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