Arkansas Bret Bielema had an interesting 2013 – one which had his wife talking about a Wisconsin loss and ‘karma’ (and one that backfired!). His Razorbacks finished 3-9, including going winless in the SEC. In February 2014, he sounded off about player safety, campaigning in a change in the rule for hurry-up offenses – one that would slow them down. He called the hurry-up offences “death certificates”, referencing the death of Cal football player Ted Agu during preseason workouts. Cal’s system is all about the hurry-up offense.

So in the SEC Media Days in Hoover, AL, it was hardly surprising that he had his opinion on such things – as well as a bunch of others. Earlier, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel had dismissed links to death and injury with fast-paced offenses as ‘fiction’, something that Bielema was asked about….

He said: “Not to carry from last year, but I’m probably more of a reality‑based movie guy more than fiction, I guess.  I think I deal more in what I know, what I see, what I believe. 
Have I softened in my view of fast‑paced offenses?  The only thing I’m going to say to that, if you ask me in that tense, you’re asking me have I softened my view on player safety.  The answer would be no.  If I recruit somebody, bring them into my family, I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure they’re the most well‑equipped, educated to make player safety a premium in our program….
I firmly believe right now the reason Arkansas never had a call against them is because of the education we gave them as coaches. 
So I firmly believe that, yes, our responsibility as coaches is player safety.  However that comes about, whether it be a 10‑second rule in the future, whether it be a substitution mandatory rule that a committee comes in place and sets in college football, I think the game is going to be a safer one because of it. 
As far as playing no‑huddle offenses, it is absolutely probably one of the most enjoyable things I can have as a coach.  We played Oregon in the Rose Bowl.  Lost a heartbreaker at the end.  I believe it was a field goal or two‑point difference.  Whatever it was, it was a back‑and‑forth game.  There’s nothing more enjoyable than to see a no‑huddle offense sitting on the sideline and can’t stand it. 
But to do that you have to play really good defense and you have to play well on offense.  For my formula to work and complete wins, you have to be able to be good offensively, defensively and on special teams.  All three have to work together. 
A lot of times no‑huddle offenses can play really good offense and bad defense and still win.  That’s just not how I’m going to work.  I have seen a couple good fiction movies, though, so I know good fiction when I see it.  Had to give you guys one to run (smiling).

Strange, because coach-wise, he’s still tight with the King of the fast-pace offense in the SEC, one Gus Malzahn. He called his attitude towards the Auburn coach as “greatly respected”, adding: “We don’t necessarily see eye‑to‑eye on certain things…..Gus runs an offensive style and philosophy that is completely opposite of what I believe in, but who can argue with his success.  That makes me respect him even more.

He adds that none of his conversations with Malzahn have been about player safety, but it’s been respectful (a word he used a lot during his press conference). “I can’t say that we’re breaking bread together and going to dinner when we can, but I’m not throwing bread at him and rocks and everything else.  It’s just what it is.  Greatly respected.

He said that the biggest thing he had to get used to coming from Wisconsin to Fayetteville was not the crowds or the passion (Wisconsin’s crowds were pretty deep on both), but “winning versus losing” was definitely hard to take. “It’s quite simple,” he said.  “I’d been able to have a tremendous amount of success, won three straight championships.  That’s why I came here.  I didn’t come here to lose. I expect to go 3‑9.  On the same account, I didn’t expect to win it my first year.  What I’ve done is sustain what I believe helps you win.  Understand that the only way to change the results of a 3‑9 season is to change what you’re doing.

He also said that he expects Nick Marshall to open the season as starting quarterback for Auburn against his Razorbacks, despite his citation for marijuana. “I think knowing what I know as a head coach, Nick will be there.  I think we want to play against the best and I’m sure he’ll be there,” he said.

He added some fuel to the fire concerning his school’s rivalry with Texas A&M, and the fact that it is moving to Cowboys Stadium, home of Arkansas alum and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: “We go and try to recruit as many as we can with the state border.  You have Jerry Jones who stands for everything in the NFL.  He’s one of the hugest Hog fans you’ll ever meet.  I heard him quoted as saying, to have the Super Bowl, to have all these high‑profile events in his stadium, but to have Texas A&M play Arkansas is one of the most rewarding in his career.  For a guy to say that means we want to stay true to that tradition….To go to a kid in the state of Texas and let him know every year you’re going to play in Cowboy Stadium, nobody else in the SEC can say that except for the guys at Texas A&M.  That’s a huge recruiting advantage and one we’ll capitalize on.

The full transcript of Bret Bielema’s speech at the SEC Media Days can be read here….

 

 

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