Josh Kendall

October 10, 2013

The view from Arkansas: Beat writer Q&A

Beat writer Q&A with Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Josh Kendall

News and views about Gamecocks football

Beat writer Q&A with Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette....

1. How is Bret Bielema liking life in the SEC?

So far, not so good. Nah, Bielema understood he'd have big challenges with a transition in philosophy that also coincided with a big talent vacuum in offensive skill talent. He and his staff have been moderately successful at planting the seeds of what their M.O. will be all about: Physical on both lines, rugged run game, clock controlling, winning the turnover battle. He has sprinkled in comments the last couple of weeks about how important recruiting to their system and building a deeper roster will be.

Bielema clearly has enjoyed and embraced the challenge of assembling a contender in the nation's toughest conference. He told his seniors he wasn't here to build a contender in two or three years, but everyone knew there were young players at several positions on the team that would make contending this season an extremely difficult chore. The Razorbacks' current stretch -- Texas A&M, at Florida, South Carolina, at Alabama -- looked brutal on paper in August and it's playing out that way.

2. Are the Razorbacks the most determined running team in the SEC?

The knee-jerk response to that is yes, though Alabama and Florida would certainly challenge for that title. The Arkansas coaches know how important a productive ground game is to their philosophy of shortening games. Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams responded by rushing for 100 yards each in the first three games. Collins became the first freshman to accomplish that feat in SEC history and the first in the NCAA since Adrian Peterson's freshman year.

3. Is Arkansas' defense any better than it has been in years past?

Through three games and the first three quarters at Rutgers, I was convinced this was true. But the Scarlet Knights tore up the secondary with short-drop throws, exploiting the corners and abusing the middle with their tight end. The pass rush and run stop have been strong, but lack of experience and big-time playmaking at linebacker have started to hurt during two SEC games. Overall, when the season is through, my guess is they will be marginally better in total defense, significantly better in pass rush and pretty equal to last year's surprisingly solid run defense.

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