I think we can all agree on the fact that Bret Bielema did much, much better at this year's SEC Media Days than in his first go around. Bielema learned his lesson after inserting foot into mouth at his inaugural address in Hoover last year and didn't do anything to hurt his cause.
Other than being a bit late to the party, the Razorback players and Bielema represented themselves very well and were obviously very excited about answering all of the same questions they've faced for the last seven months. I was also pretty impressed with Bielema's spiel at the beginning of his podium time when he basically told the media in the room "hey, I respect what you do so try to respect what I and my players do." That was neat.
I also couldn't be more proud of the fact there were more positive takeaways from Bielema and the boys than negatives. About the only negative, and it wasn't really even discussed that much, was when safety and senior Alan Turner said he didn't think HUNH offenses pose a hazard to defenses. STICK TO THE SCRIPT, ALAN. C'MON MAN.
Now here are a few of my takeaways from the Hogs time in the spotlight Wednesday:
1. The Malzahn-Bielema relationship will be fun to follow this season.
BERT and Gus haven't always seen eye-to-eye since Bielema joined the SEC last year, but apparently their relationship is vastly better than many of us thought. Malzahn, on Monday, was asked, likely by Bob Holt, how he and Bielema's relationship was, and "professional" was the term used.
Malzahn insisted to the media that he and Bielema "communicate" during meetings (which I would like to believe goes something like "Hey, Gus, pull my finger," and "You have a nice walk into the stadium today, Bret?). But however they may communicate, there is mutual respect between them.
But let's not get it twisted, there's still a bit of poking and prodding going on. Bielema made that pretty evident when he chose to say the two aren't "breaking bread" with one another. They aren't throwing rocks at each others faces, either, though. Just a whole lot of mutual respect.
So what's next in the Malzahn-Bielema relationship? Two (or more) options:
a) Bielema wears a sweater vest to the midfield handshake before kickoff of the season opener.
b) Malzahn wears a fake hand to the midfield handshake OR Malzahn places bread and rocks on his posterboard playcards.
2. Bret Bielema is bringing the sexy to Arkansas football.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, got more reaction Wednesday than when Bielema was raving about one of his most prized recruits in his first full recruiting class, Bijhon Jackson. Being a nose tackle himself back in his playing days, Bielema has a special place in his heart for the big uglies in the trenches.
But Bielema got pretty wound up talking about Jackson when asked about the El Dorado High School star, telling the media in the room that the freshman defensive lineman has "an incredible, incredible ass."
Jackson is expected to step in right away for the Arkansas defense, and now must live up to his already high expectations:
Bijohn Jackson's ass is now under pressure to build up Razorback football as much as Jessica Dorrell's ass did to tear it down.— Trent Wooldridge (@twooldridge) July 16, 2014
Bijon you look good won't you back that ass up / you a fine lookin lineman won't you back that ass up #SECMD14— Kyle Loker (@kyleloker) July 16, 2014
3. Bielema didn't take the media's bait with the HUNH questions.
He took the bait last year, and it's really wonderful to see how much difference a year can make. He was having none of Wednesday, and simply tried to reiterate that he didn't particularly have a problem with HUNH teams, he just wanted to stress his belief in player safety.
Bielema even said that one of the greatest things he's learned in life is that you must respect the opposite of what you believe in more than anything. He sounded like he was genuine when speaking of his respect for the coaches in the league that run the HUNH, and while he handled himself well, he got his shots in, too, particularly with Gary Pinkel.
Pinkel said injuries being caused by HUNH was "fiction," to which Bielema replied that he likes him some reality TV shows moreso than Star Wars, and that he's a John Wayne fan. +1 for the JW reference. That's my guy.
4. Bielema and safety Alan Turner are not on the same page, apparently.
To my complete amazement, not much was made of the comments Razorback senior Alan Turner made when asked about player safety. Turner said he doesn't see HUNH and fast paced offenses as a hazard to defenses.
15 minutes later Turner's scholarship was rescinded and he walked back to Fayetteville as punishment.
But in all seriousness, it makes you wonder how Bielema's players view player safety. The coaching staff can preach and teach player safety all they want, but the players themselves obviously have their own opinions, too. That's an interesting dynamic to all this.
Do the players of the coaches who stress player safety have the same views as their leader? Maybe not.
5. Bielema is excited about the possibilities of the Missouri rivalry.
"No matter what the situation is, you wrap your arms around it, kiss it, hug it, make it great." Well, Arkansas has been told it will play Missouri the day after Thanksgiving from now on, and Bielema loves it. He has hugged it, kissed it on the mouth and gotten on board with it.
Bielema thinks playing Missouri on Black Friday doesn't get any better, and that's kind of interesting. He's embracing the possibility of the new rivalry and all of the little things in entails, and thinks it could really turn into something big.
I'm honestly kind of excited about the possibility of this matchup, too. The basketball rivalry is already pretty decent, and if Bielema and Pinkel get into it any more, this could get pretty damn fun in a hurry.
- Bret Bielema at SEC Media Days Recap: Gary Pinkel, Gus Malzahn, HUNH, Fiction Movies, Sexy Stuff, AND MORE
- What is Hoganese?
- Projected SEC Standings & All-SEC Teams From SEC Media Days
- SEC Media Days: Bret Bielema Schedule, Bob Holt Clinches Another SECMD Victory and More
- SEC Network + To Debut With Arkansas Razorback Soccer Match vs Creighton