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Bret Bielema Post-Practice: Coaches Keying on Development, Recruiting in Bye Week

'If you don't take a step forward every year, you're taking a step backward' edition.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

During the Razorbacks second bye week of the season, the Arkansas coaching staff is focusing more on player development and recruiting, Bret Bielema said Thursday.

Arkansas finished up practice with a developmental scrimmage on Thursday, getting redshirted and younger players more work and resting key players, mirroring the schedule of the first bye week.

"Without the bowl practices, we want to get as much developmental work in practice as we can," Bielema said.

In that development period, several players have stood out to coaches, including redshirt freshman safety De’Andre Coley, defensive lineman Jamichael Winston, and redshirt quarterbacks Austin Allen and Damon "Duwop" Mitchell.

"I think Austin Allen and Damon Mitchell have really done a nice job of growing as much as they can in the offseason … I know those guys are going to make a run for [the QB job] in the spring."

Making the utmost use of the bye week, the coaches have also been busy on the recruiting trails, and will have used 41 of 42 evaluation days allowed by the NCAA before this weekend.

"I thought our staff had come up with a great plan," Bielema said. "We’ve been very fortunate in being able to maximize it out. The reception’s been very positive with the coaches we’ve visited with."

Bielema also pointed out that coaches are recruiting from coast-to-coast, and relying on relationships with coaches in past.

"I’m very, very excited when I talk to some of these guys on the phone about the desire to come in and contribute," he said.

Bielema and the rest of the coaching staff are also putting an emphasis on players who need academic work to "get where they need to be in order to be at a good point at the end of the semester."

But despite all of the work and focus on the future of the program, Bielema isn’t giving up on this season.

"I told our seniors we’re going to do everything in our power these last two weeks to give them daily preparation to win," Bielema said. "What happens in these next two weeks has any effect on what we’re doing or how we’re going about it."

In injury news, cornerback Will Hines has been 100 percent cleared to play for the Mississippi State game, and playing time will depend on his performance in practice during game week.

Arkansas is off this weekend, but will make it’s second Little Rock trip next weekend to face a 4-5 Mississippi State team at 11:21 a.m.