Bielema excited for SEC Network, Hogs recruiting efforts

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Friday, May 10, 2013
STAFF PHOTO SAMANTHA BAKER
Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema, right, and wife Jen, welcome attendees to the 15th annual Komen Ozark Race for the Cure Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Pinnacle Hills Promenade in Rogers. The event hosted 10K and 5K competitive runs, a 5K fun run, 1K family fun run, survivors breakfast and lots of free giveaways from local vendors.
Photo by Samantha Baker
STAFF PHOTO SAMANTHA BAKER Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema, right, and wife Jen, welcome attendees to the 15th annual Komen Ozark Race for the Cure Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Pinnacle Hills Promenade in Rogers. The event hosted 10K and 5K competitive runs, a 5K fun run, 1K family fun run, survivors breakfast and lots of free giveaways from local vendors.

Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema is elated about the SEC Network, which will be launched August 2014, and how it will help the Hogs in recruiting.

Bielema, who attended the announcement of the network in Atlanta last week, likes the numerous benefits the Hogs and the SEC will see from the network but the additional exposure is what pleases him the most. He's looking forward to visiting homes of recruits in the future.

"When you walk into a home and sit down with a young man and his family and they'll say 'well coach, we've been following you for years on the SEC Network,'" Bielema said. "'We've been watching what you've built and we've been watching what you've created. We watch your coach's show we like how you handle your business, we like how you handle your players.' That part of the cycle of building a network and to the vast valve of what it brings to the SEC is really going to be priceless."

ESPN president John Skipper made the most notable comment during announcement, Bielema said.

"Probably the best line I heard all day was when the president of ESPN made the statement this wasn't a Southern network," Bielema said. "This isn't an SEC network, this is a national network. I think that's exactly what we found out. "

Arkansas made sure in-state athletes and high school coaches knew the Hogs were serious about making the state their number one in priority. On April 15, the first day of the spring evaluation period, Razorback coaches visited more than 30 schools.

Bielema said the recruiting department headed by director of recruiting Chris Hauser came up with the idea of "Operation: New ERA" that impressed the high school coaches in the state.

"It was entertaining to me because I knew we were going to raise some eye brows," Bielema said. "We had every coach touch a part of the state that day. We were totally within the NCAA rules, but it got all of our neighbors a little bit nervous in the SEC about what we were doing. [We] made a statement to our coaches and [it has] really came back tenfold since that point."

The feedback has been very positive.

"I've talked to a lot of coaches throughout the state," Bielema said. "Just the emphasis that we put on in making sure that we evaluate every kid they feel that's important will be a long standing process for us at the University of Arkansas."

While the Hog coaches are on the road visiting school, it's essential to represent University of Arkansas the right way while evaluating prospects.

"They're going to be dressed right, they're going to act right," Bielema said. "They're going to talk right, they're going to see the people they need to see, not just the head football coach. But the principle, the [athletic director], anybody that touches the lives of a student-athlete we may recruit."

Bielema said the coaches are trying to learn all they can about a recruit academically, athletically and socially.

"We're going to get transcripts, we're going to get grade reports," Bielema said. "We'll talk to a student teacher. Maybe somebody that works with him in the library and in the study hall. We'll grab a custodian and ask what kind of kid he is. We want to know everything about him that can give us a better detail of what we want to know for us to make a decision whether or not we want to offer him a chance to be a Razorback."

Arkansas puts a premium on a prospect's character and is known to watch what prospects post on Twitter and Facebook. Bielema said the combination of character and talent, usually equals success.

"To me, you are what you are when no one else is around," Bielema said. "What kind of character you exhibit during the most difficult times not just the successful ones. As I've found over a course of time if you have a kid that loves the game, if you have a kid that wants to be coached, if you have a kid that wants to have success in all areas of his life and you decide he can be a part of your program with talent you have a very good chance of winning."

Player development is key to winning but Bielema and his coaching staff are also looking to make players winners in life.

"We're into life development," he said. "We want them to leave Arkansas in a better place than when they came. We want a young men that have come in with a great balance of family and character. Hopefully that's going to be a champion that's going to win throughout his life."

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