1. Bielema Touts Hocker for Groza
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said he is making a push for senior kicker Zach Hocker to win the Lou Groza Award.
The Groza award recognizes college football’s top kicker annually. Hocker has made 8 of his 9 field goal tries and his only miss came in Tuscaloosa, Ala. when the top-ranked Crimson Tide blocked his 41-yard attempt.
“If I have a player that deserves national recognition I’m going to do everything I can to get it, so I called all the people that [vote] for the Groza — the best kicker in college football — because I think Zach Hocker’s that guy,” Bielema said.
“There’s no doubt in my mind. He’s only had one miss, and that’s because we got it blocked. I don’t know how many returnable balls we’ve had the whole season on kickoffs, including two from the 20-yard line. And he’s just so into it. Any time you have a senior kicker that gets votes for captain, you know you’ve got something special. So my hat goes off to him. He’s a tremendous football player.”
Bielema has a made it a habit to tout his players for awards since becoming a head coach. Bielema said he called Outland Trophy voters to praise offensive tackle Joe Thomas during his first season as Wisconsin’s coach.
“One of the things I really believe in as a head coach is that you have an obligation to honor your seniors as best you possibly can,” he said. “My first year, I remember, when I was at the University of Wisconsin, I called every Outland voter about three weeks out from the vote and just expressed how much I thought of Joe Thomas, and a lot of them are like, ‘I’ve never received a head coach’s phone call.’ And I kind of was amazed at that, because I was a rookie coach. But it made a big statement to me there.”
2. Abrasive Meeting
Bielema raised a few eyebrows last week when he described his most recent staff meeting as “abrasive.”
“I just had probably the most abrasive staff meeting this morning with my coaches because I can’t get people to understand that if you don’t run the football and if you don’t stop the football, we’re not going to win games,” Bielema said at the time.
Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge offered a little more explanation Wednesday.
“He’s just trying to make sure everyone is paying attention to all the small details,” Partridge said. “And making sure the guys, all the players, are being held accountable to all their responsibilities on and off the field and making sure we’re holding the players we’re responsible for accountable all the time. He wanted to get that point made to the staff that we want to do that.”
Partridge, who also worked for Bielema at Wisconsin, said it’s not the first time he has seen the coach like that during a staff meeting.
“If he feels like there’s any lack of attention to detail, he’s going to make sure that that isn’t the case and that we do our jobs,” Partridge said.
3. Repeat Performance?
Defensive end Trey Flowers enjoyed a big performance against Auburn last season, collecting a career-high 3 1/2 sacks in Arkansas’ 24-7 win.
The junior — who is a Montgomery, Ala., native — would love a repeat performance Saturday.
“Most definitely I think about it,” Flowers said about his success in last season’s game. “And I’m looking forward to doing some similar things this year, no doubt. So I just want to make big plays and give my team a chance to win.”
Of course, Auburn’s offense is much different this season under first-year coach Gus Malzahn. The Tigers lead the SEC in rushing and have topped the 600-yard mark in each of the past three games.
But Flowers said Arkansas is ready for the challenge.
“I see they made a couple of change-ups on offense that has really benefited them and benefited their O-line,” Flowers said. “I see that they’re doing what they do better than they did last year, so you know, we’re still looking forward to getting after them.”
4. Support System
Bielema’s alma mater, Iowa, and his former team, Wisconsin, will play each other Saturday. But as his current team prepares to play Auburn, Bielema is receiving support from both sides of that Big Ten matchup.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson — who played for Bielema at Wisconsin — has shown his support in the midst of a five-game losing streak.
“Here’s the kind of kid he is,” Bielema said of Wilson. “Monday after the Alabama game, I was running around all over the country recruiting and I remember I got off of a plane and there was a page-and-a-half text from Russell Wilson, just saying how much he thinks of me and that he loves my wife and I and I’m thinking, ‘Here’s a kid who is lighting up the world of NFL football, living his dream and the comments that he made in that text were off the charts.’”
Bielema also has five college friends in town this weekend. Bielema also said it is the first weekend they’ll get to root against Wisconsin since 2005.
“I won’t be with them, but they’ll be out and about Fayetteville,” Bielema said. “It’s kind of a neat weekend for them because ever since I had been the head coach at Wisconsin, they hadn’t been able to cheer for our alumni when they played in the Wisconsin game. But I’m sure the Iowa-Wisconsin game will be a well-watched game for them.”
Iowa and Wisconsin are scheduled to play at noon on Saturday.
— Logan Wilson • Special to the Arkansas News Bureau