5NEWS Sports Bobby Swofford sat down with Arkansas coach Bret Bielema to find out where the offense is heading in 2014 and what fans can expect from Jim Chaney’s unit in year two of the coaching staff.
Bobby Swofford: No secret you like to build from the inside and work your way out. Are you a little surprised that a pass first offensive line has transitioned into run line as quickly as they have?
Bret Bielema: No, I’m very excited. I think a lot of it is development in this room, the weight room. Ben Herbert has done an outstanding job. Brey Cook is a different man. He’s a changed man from when we came in here. The numbers that they put up, especially in the lower body strength and squats and stuff like that. It gave you the indication that the power was starting to come along. We’ve recruited certain players that I think are going to be a dramatic impact on our team. Those two things, development and recruiting, have taken a big part of what we’re doing.
BS: How far away are you from having the type of offensive line, as a whole, that you want?
BB: We have a lot of really good young players. You’re going to see Cameron Jefferson for the first time this Saturday. A transfer from UNLV who looks incredible. He’s 6-6, 310 pounds. That’s great but Ben and I always kind of say ‘could you imagine if we had this kid for three or four years and the freak show he’d be’. I’m excited to see the development, even the guys we only have for a short amount of time.
BS: As much as I’d like to talk about the linemen for an hour, the skill guys are what pay the bills. Who are some guys that nobody talks about who may have a breakout year?
BB: I think at running back we are pretty set. Everybody knows our three-headed monster (Jonathan Williams), Alex (Collins) and Korliss (Marshall). I think at wide receiver it’s Keon Hatcher. Even though he’s played a little bit, he hasn’t that out year. I think him and Demetrius Wilson, we’re going to look to to lead that group but there are some young underclassmen. Jared Cornelius, Cody Hollister, maybe a JoJo (Robinson) that has some exceptional speed and qualities. Those guys are exciting but I think the one guy on offense that no one has seen much of and could be a big impact is A.J. Derby.
BS: At tight end?
BB: Absolutely. He’s gifted. He catches the ball well. He played quarterback his entire life so he knows the whole picture. He understands where people can be. He understands defenses. I think his knowledge and his ability is going to be a great combination.
BS: How do you keep all those running backs happy? There is only one football.
BB: I think it’s an education but I also think it’s the kind of people you recruit. You make them understand, listen that everyone is going to get their day. The years I’ve seen guys have exceptional seasons, in my seven seasons at Wisconsin we had guys up for the Doak Walker at least four of those seven years and that doesn’t happen by chance. It’s because they’ve got good people and they’ve got good people around them.
BS: I know one guy you’ve never been asked about, that’s your quarterback Brandon Allen. He’s a guy that’s probably the most criticized athlete in the state of Arkansas. How has he handled the last year with the injury and all the adversity he’s had to overcome?
BB: I think he’s handled it like a true champion, like a quarterback should. He gets all too much credit when we do things right and way too much blame when things don’t go right but he’s grown so much physically that his body is just definitely different but also maturity wise, composure, reactionary skills. He’s just been off the charts in my opinion in every field.