Bielema de­liv­ers writ­ten mes­sage

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - TOM MUR­PHY

ROGERS — Six days be­fore the start of train­ing camp, Arkansas Ra­zor­backs coach Bret Bielema used an old-fash­ioned method of let­ting his play­ers know what was on his mind.

“I wrote our guys a let­ter on Fri­day,” Bielema said Mon­day dur­ing the NWA Ra­zor­back Club golf out­ing at Shadow Val­ley Coun­try Club. “I went a lit­tle bit old school and wrote a let­ter and put it in their lock­ers.”

Bielema said he went over the im­prove­ments the team has made since it re­ported for winter con­di­tion­ing in Jan­uary, and he re­stated the top ar­eas of em­pha­sis, which in­clude be­com­ing a bet­ter fin­ish­ing team.

“Just from the time we came back in Jan­uary, the things they’ve ad­dressed, the things they’ve done, not only with us as coaches but away from the game amongst them­selves, has been very ful­fill­ing for me,” Bielema said.

The Ra­zor­backs, who open the sea­son on Thurs­day, Aug. 31, against Florida A&M at War Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in Lit­tle Rock, start camp on Thurs­day, five weeks out from the opener.

Bielema, en­ter­ing his fifth sea­son at the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayetteville, said se­nior cen­ter Frank Rag­now

spear­headed a move­ment in which play­ers of­ten ar­rive 20-30 min­utes ahead of meet­ing or work­out times.

The re­sult, Bielema said, is that he hasn’t re­ceived any com­plaints from his coach­ing staff or strength and con- di­tion­ing coach Ben Her­bert about tar­di­ness or unex- plained ab­sences.

“Zero is­sues with guys be- ing late or not where they’re sup­posed to be at the right time,” Bielema said.

Bielema equated the Ra- zor­backs’ ef­forts to bounce back from a 7-6 sea­son, which ended with score­less sec­ond halves in losses at Mis­souri and to Vir­ginia Tech in the Belk Bowl, to that of PGA golfer Jor­dan Spi­eth.

Spi­eth blew a five-shot lead on the back nine at the Mas­ters last April, came to grips with the lost op­por­tu­nity for a ti­tle, and won the Bri­tish Open on Sun­day with a strong fin­ish af­ter blow­ing a three-stroke lead.

“I see Jor­dan Spi­eth go through what he went through yes­ter­day [Sun­day], and I’m not say­ing there’s a great cor­re­la­tion be­tween golf and foot­ball,” Bielema said. “But the men­tal­ity of the game. Just be­cause you’ve been in a sit­u­a­tion doesn’t mean you have to be de­fined by it. You can change the an­swer at any time and I think our guys are ea­ger.”

The Ra­zor­backs open camp ear­lier than most FBS teams be­cause of the Thurs­day sea­son opener.

One of the first and most im­por­tant or­ders of busi­ness will be sort­ing out the large group of re­ceivers and get­ting them on the same page with se­nior quar­ter­back Austin Allen.

Se­nior Jared Cor­nelius, who had 32 catches for 515 yards and 4 touch­downs, is the lone re­turn­ing wideout with more than two catches last sea­son.

“I be­lieve in my ten­ure here, tal­en­t­wise it might be the deep­est group that I’ve had,” re­ceivers coach Michael Smith said. “Just a lot of young­sters that we’ve got to bring along and try to get them in the right po­si­tion.”

The list of po­ten­tial con­trib­u­tors be­hind Cor­nelius in­cludes sopho­mores Deon Ste­wart, La’Michael Pettway and T.J. Ham­monds, red­shirt fresh­man Jor­dan Jones, ju­nior-col­lege trans­fers Bran­don Martin and Jonathan

Nance and a large group of fresh­men.

Smith said Ste­wart will run with Cor­nelius on the first of­fense when the Hogs go to team pe­ri­ods at the start of camp.

“I think Deon has earned that through his work late last year and through what he’s done this sum­mer,” Smith said.

“But you’ll also see with the 1s La’Michael, Bran­don, Jor­dan Jones, of course Jared is go­ing to be a con­stant, and hope­fully we can get J. Nance in there at times.”

Smith said true fresh­men Maleek Barkley, Jar­rod Barnes, Koilan Jack­son and De’Vion War­ren have piqued his in­ter­est.

“I’m go­ing to give them op­por­tu­ni­ties to go out there and get dirty, and if they’re able to per­form the way we think they will, we’re go­ing to be deep.”

De­fen­sively, the switch to a base 3-4 that started with game-plan­ning in the winter months to in­stal­la­tion in spring drills will con­tinue for co­or­di­na­tor Paul Rhoads.

“I think we’ve re­cruited a higher cal­iber of ath­lete here since Year 1 to where we are now,” Bielema said. “I re­ally like the fact that we’ll have eight guys on their feet be­fore the ball is snapped. Ath­let­i­cally, I think we should be able to do that.”

In­side lineback­ers coach Ver­non Har­g­reaves said the spring drills in the 3-4 fol­lowed by a sum­mer of brush­ing up on the schemes should help.

“A lot of it is on them,” he said. “Hope­fully the ex­tra work that they’ve done this sum­mer and go­ing back and watch­ing what they did … will go a long way with us mak­ing this move. We’re go­ing to keep it as sim­ple as we can and not do too much and let the guys play, so hope­fully that will work out good.”

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/TOM MUR­PHY

Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema speaks to re­porters Mon­day at the Shadow Val­ley Coun­try Club in Rogers. Bielema was at the NWA Ra­zor­back Club golf event at the club. The Ra­zor­backs be­gin fall camp Thurs­day in Fayetteville.

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