FAYETTEVILLE — Parking has been an issue for nearly anyone at the University of Arkansas and Bret Bielema is no exception.
The Razorbacks head coach addressed the media Friday before the school’s Pro Day and revealed he has received his first parking citation. But it was his only complaint after a few months on the job.
“I was talking to somebody the other day and said that’s the only thing that’s made me upset since I’ve been here,” Bielema said. “I got a parking ticket the other day for my left front tire being over a white line – which I really don’t understand.
“I’ll pay it willingly, but I will file a claim.”
Ticket aside, Bielema said he is more thrilled to be coaching at Arkansas now than when he originally took the job on Dec. 4, which was just days after he coached Wisconsin in a 70-31 win over Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship.
It includes his first three spring practices with the Razorbacks.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” he said. “I guarantee you this: On Dec. 5 when I came in here and addressed the media and addressed the entire Razorback Nation, I was excited as a head coach. A lot of unknowns, lot of things out there I didn’t know about Arkansas, our program, our facilities, our players, our administration and the state of Arkansas.
“But I was excited and I can tell you that’s probably multiplied by 1,000 since that time. I’ve just been encouraged by everything that’s come across my desk in any way, shape or form.”
The Razorbacks have been in pads just one of the three days of practice thus far and Bielema said they are focusing on a few things, like fundamentals.
“It was more about just getting ourselves right on how we do a drill, how we prepare, how we execute the beginning, the start to every drill, how my coaches are going to interact with each other, how they’re going to transition on the football field,” Bielema said.
“Did a little bit of good on those first two days, but yesterday was the first day in big-boy pads. We were in full pads, head to toe. Kids got excited, our coaches got excited, everything kind of got amplified by quite a bit; got a little bit sloppy in the details but the effort, the enthusiasm and the intensity was unwavering.
“We are not going to push the envelope to try to put in a playbook that doesn’t need to be used until the first game. Again, I told our coaches at the beginning, if you ever want to get a feel from where I’m coming from, just understand slow it down and make it great. Don’t hurry and make it average. Slow it down and make it great.
“I used that philosophy in finding a wife and carried the same thing football wise.”
Even though Bielema said the Razorbacks were a “bit sloppy in the details” in the only full-padded practice thus far, he said contact and playing “big-boy football” was something he would continue emphasizing with his new team.
“It’s a process,” Bielema said. “I don’t think you can tap someone on the head to make them go play physical. You have to teach them on a daily basis what that means. As coaches we even just discussed this morning that yesterday we went through a high-intensity, full-padded practice for over two hours and as a result of that, some of our players started to break down and wear down.
“We have to push them through that barrier, but at the same time as coaches, we can’t put our head in the sand and act like we’re oblivious to what’s going gone around us. We have to gradually build this into where we want it to be.
“I told our guys this the other day, I’m not going to necessarily say we’re the most talented football team on the field every game next year, but I’ll guarantee you this: our effort and our coaching technique will try to prepare you to be the most physical team on the field every day in the fall. That’s not talent-driven, that’s want-to-driven. I think our players our beginning to understand that.”
Arkansas closed practices to the public until the annual Red-White Game, but Bielema said it just has to do with him and his staff installing a system and getting used to each other and the players. The Razorbacks will practice 11 more times before the spring game, which will be held April 20.
“I wasn’t trying to punish anybody by closing down the practice,” Bielema said. “I just really felt, for me as a first-time head coach, for my staff coming in the first time, for our players working with my staff, I just thought it was important for us to kind of get on the same page, let us have an understanding of who we are and what we are before we kind of let some people in.”