July 18, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
HOOVER, Ala. – First-year Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has heard the Southeastern Conference-Big Ten comparisons almost since the day he arrived, but he’s not paying much attention.
The key to winning, he said at SEC Media Days, is the same in any league at any time.
“I’m going to start with the offensive line and defensive line,” Bielema said, “two staples I believe are important for winning games that I want our team to play. It doesn’t matter if we’re in the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, whatever. It’s something I emphasize from Day 1.”
That formula worked well at Wisconsin, where Bielema took the Badgers to three Rose Bowls. And he says he believes he has the tools to make it work quickly at Arkansas.
“Upfront play is going to dictate the way we play the game, ”Bielema said, “and fortunately I think we’re going to be all right.”
Bielema took over a program in disarray. After taking the Razorbacks to 21 wins in two seasons, Bobby Petrino was fired before last season when he admitted an affair with a subordinate. John L. Smith took over as interim coach, and a disastrous season unfolded. The Razorbacks, projected by many as a top five team, finished 4-8.
Center Travis Swanson said the pain of the past was washed away quickly.
“The spring was awesome,” Swanson said. “It was really a smooth transition. Obviously, it’s a new program and a new setting for everyone. We’ve all bought in. That’s what I took away from this spring.”
The Razorbacks had one of their few bright days last season at Auburn, scoring 17 fourth-quarter points to win 24-7. They play the Tigers this season in Fayetteville on Nov. 2, after an open date.
Reporters gathered for Media Day didn’t think much of Bielema’s chances of making an early impact. The Razorbacks were picked to finish last in the West Division. Bielema was undaunted.
“The lower the better,” Bielema said. “I think our kids are carrying a tremendous chip on their shoulder. The same group (of voters) a year ago had us in the top five. We have some really good players.”
<em>Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter:</em><br>
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