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The Battalion

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Arkansas head coach talks Sumlin, Aggies at 2016 SEC Media Days

SEC Media Day 2016
Photo by Provided
SEC Media Day 2016

HOOVER, Ala.— With no enigmatic Steve Spurrier, who retired last season, making an appearance at SEC Media Days. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, lightened the mood in Hoover following a serious discussion with Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
Bielema, nonetheless, brought life to the media room in Hoover to close out the morning session on Day Three at SEC Media Days. Bielema, discussed Razorback Football ranging from a confrontation with Kevin Sumlin to a breakdown of last year’s chaotic ending in the Razorback’s win over Ole Miss.
Bielema, began by stating that he felt Arkansas is on track to making the next step under his watch after falling short in several close Division games a season ago, including to A&M.
“We’re getting really close to where we want to be,” Bielema said. “Last year to go 5-3 [in conference], I look at the three losses and realize we lost to overtime to A&M, lost a heartbreaker on a game-winning field goal against Mississippi State and led Alabama at half and couldn’t close it out.”
Bielema then recalled the past two matchups with A&M, which the Aggies managed to secure comeback wins in both games and as to why the Razorbacks were unable to capitalize on a key early season conference win.
“We play[ed] extremely well for a period of time and then kind of allowed the game to get back into [A&M’s] hands,” Bielema said. “Two years ago, Jonathan Williams broke a run that would have [put us up] 21, but we had an unfortunate tripping call. It did kind of change the momentum of the game.”
Bielema, followed that by noting how he nearly lost it with his close-friend, A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, when the two met following the Aggies’ 28-21 comeback win last season.
“We’re walking across to shake hands, and he said, I don’t know what to say,” Bielema recalled. “I said, don’t say anything, I might punch you.”
Bielema added that the annual game between the Aggies and Razorbacks at AT&T Stadium is a fun experience for everyone, such as getting to interact with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who is a former Razorback player, along with other advantages.
“I think our kids really respect one another. There’s a lot of cross-over high school rivalry,” Bielema said. “I grew up a Cowboys fan. Been a huge fan of Jerry Jones. To kind of get to shake his hand and talk with him and Stephen [Jones] and be involved in that is absolutely awesome. To get to go to Dallas and play a game every year, for us, in recruiting is absolutely huge.”
While Arkansas participated in hosting the newly created satellite camps, which included one in Houston, he recognized the concern Sumlin has with coaches from other states coming into Texas to steal recruiting thunder from his home territory.
“When I first came in the league I was talking with Sumlin, and I knew he was a little bit concerned,” Bielema said. “He was really the only one being affected by it. He was in Texas, and there were schools from Oklahoma that were coming down into Texas putting on these camps.”
While Sumlin praised his fellow SEC schools for scheduling quality non-conference games early in the season yesterday, Bielema said he was excited for the Razorbacks road trip to play Big 12 contender TCU in Week Two.
“AD [Jeff Long] had a nice idea to throw TCU into the mix before we take on the SEC West,” Bielema said. “I’ very excited about seeing Coach Patterson. I see him once a year on a Nike trip. That’s good enough for me. I don’t really want to play him. [But] that’s what we’re going to do.”
Bielema then discussed the disappointment he had earlier this month when he discovered that Michigan has cancelled a home-and-home series with Arkansas in 2018 and 2019, which was a game he enjoyed playing in as a player at Iowa and a coach at Wisconsin.
“We were on a train headed to Paris,” Bielema recalled. “My wife said, Hey there’s something on the Internet about a Big Ten team cancelling with an SEC team. I said, I don’t know anything about it. She said, Really? Your picture’s right here.”
The Razorbacks leader had choice words when describing the potential Arkansas-Michigan matchup, while providing a comical moment when telling media members what SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told him about his idea of an SEC-Big Ten challenge.
“I think Michigan and Arkansas sounds sexy,” Bielema said. “I made a comment in the spring I’d love to see an SEC-Big Ten challenge. My commish [Sankey] gave me a josh back, said that’s called a bowl game.”
Bielema went into thorough detail about his coaches and players program he named ‘Hoganese’ that is meant to get his players to understand certain difficult situations the team may face during games.
“We had these sessions called Hoganese all year long,” Bielema said. “I want to be a smart football team on the field when the coaches aren’t out there. I usually try to give a few things up front that are big picture, then [players] visit with the coordinators, then they’ll talk to assistants an they’ll go out and do some skills and drills.”
According the Bielema, Hoganese came in handy during the Razorback’s thrilling win over Ole Miss when tight Hunter Henry threw a miracle lateral on 4th & 25 with the game on the line in overtime that running back Alex Collins recovered while running behind Razorback linemen to convert the first down that extended the game.
“[Henry] said, Coach I wanted to throw it where the huddle was because I knew we would have more players there than they did,” Bielema said. “He happened to heave it to the tallest guy in the field who tapped it to fastest guy on the field.”
While Saban may be correct that Spurrier is playing a round on the links today instead of talking in Hoover, the league may have found a new face to replace the conference-icon to provide questionable comments and the element in surprise in the Hoganese master, Bret Bielema.

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