Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Flowers to return as senior
Arkansas teammates congratulate defensive end Trey Flowers after he intercepted a pass in the first quarter of the game against Southern Miss on Saturday September 14, 2013 at Razorbacks Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers announced Monday he would return to school for his senior season after lengthy conversations with Coach Bret Bielema and after receiving a third-round draft grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board.
“Bielema was very supportive throughout the process,” Flowers said on a media call. “He helped me and my family navigate my decision.”
Flowers made the decision despite losing his position coach, Charlie Partridge, who was hired as Florida Atlantic’s head coach, and after Arkansas struggled to a program-low 3-9 record in 2013.
Flowers said being in line to graduate in December played a big role in his decision, as well as the ability to fortify his stock for the 2015 NFL Draft.
“On the field, I’m excited about the program being built and wanted to help the Razorbacks come back in 2014,” he said. “Even though my draft grade was good, I believe another year under Coach Bielema will help improve my draft status.”
Bielema took a strong interest in Flowers’ decision, enough to fly with strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert to Huntsville, Ala., last Friday to meet in person with Flowers and his parents, Robert and Jacqueline.
Flowers’ projected draft grade had come back on Jan. 1, Bielema said, and he wanted to discuss the players’ options in a face-to-face meeting, as well as lay out plans for Flowers’ path to graduation, his track toward becoming a better player and Arkansas’ plan to push him for awards and a possible team captain position.
“These decisions are life-changers, they’re game-changers, and what I try to do is be up-front and honest with these parents, as well as the young men that we’re dealing with,” Bielema said in a separate media teleconference.
Bielema said he cleared the flight to Alabama in advance with Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, citing the need to meet in person with the Flowers.
“I’m very glad I did. I know it meant a lot to Trey and his parents,” Bielema said.
Flowers, a 6-4, 264-pounder, had 44 tackles, including a team-high 13 1/2 tackles for 58 yards in losses, and 5 sacks. His impact in Arkansas’ 28-24 loss at Rutgers was acute, as his quarterback hurry instigated cornerback Tevin Mitchel’s 26-yard interception return for a touchdown, and his forced fumble on Gary Nova set up the Razorbacks’ final score.
Flowers made his decision to return prior to Bielema filling the only current opening on his coaching staff, the defensive line role left behind by Partridge.
“Adapting to a different scheme, a different style of coaching is just something to learn,” Flowers said. “I feel like that’s an advantage on me, because you know even if I did go to the [NFL] or when I go to the league next year, I’ll have to adapt to a different coaching staff.”
Bielema said a defensive line hire could take place within a day or two or might trickle into next week. The decision will be made, he said, before “live” recruiting returns on Jan. 16.
Bielema said he’s interviewed two candidates for the position on campus and others off campus.
“There’s been a great pool of candidates that I had before that’s even opened up and added some people to it,” Bielema said. “There were a number of guys I had to work through, some of which were involved in bowl games, and I had to wait until the end of the NFL regular season for me to talk to a few people.
“But it’s going to be a great candidate. It’s going to be someone who will help us win ballgames.”
Bielema said he’s still trying to determine if the new defensive line coach would assist the place kickers, as Partridge did, or if that responsibility will flow to himself or someone else on staff.
No other schools had approached him to discuss hiring any of his full-time staff members yet, Bielema said, but the football program has lost other personnel.
Bielema said defensive quality control assistant Brian Early was joining the Arkansas State staff of new coach Blake Anderson, and that special teams quality control assistant Chris Hurd was joining Partridge at Florida Atlantic.
Sports, Pages 17 on 01/07/2014