Subdued kickoff: Quips less abundant in wake of Broyles’ death

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, August 19, 2017
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema joins others in a moment of silence Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, for former coach and athletics director Frank Broyles, who died Monday, during the Kickoff Luncheon at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema joins others in a moment of silence Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, for former coach and athletics director Frank Broyles, who died Monday, during the Kickoff Luncheon at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale.

SPRINGDALE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks went light on the barbs at Friday's annual Razorback Kickoff Luncheon before a packed house at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center.

The best zinger went to offensive coordinator Dan Enos, who took a poke at senior quarterback Austin Allen, the brother of ex-Razorback Brandon Allen. One of the two Allens has started every game except one during the first four years of the Bret Bielema regime at Arkansas.

"Austin's brother was a lot easier to coach," said Enos, bringing laughter from the audience. "Austin's very stubborn. He won't cut his hair."

Allen's flowing locks would be in competition with safety Santos Ramirez, tight end Jeremy Patton, safety Reid Miller and offensive lineman Dalton Wagner as the longest on the team.

Enos chuckled and said he was just having fun, and he also pointed out Brandon Allen's good numbers for the Jacksonville Jaguars in Thursday's exhibition game.

Bielema said he finally has the longest tenure among the players and coaches at the annual luncheon, now that running back Kody Walker, whose career dated back to a true freshman season in 2011, has graduated and moved on.

Emcee Chuck Barrett opened the proceedings with a tribute to Frank Broyles, who died Monday at age 92. Broyles served the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville for 50-plus years as head football coach, athletic director, fundraiser and goodwill ambassador.

"The Razorback family lost our patriarch and college football lost a legend," Barrett said. "He was the unparalleled difference-maker and there will never be another one like him. We'll miss his charm and his passion, but his spirit will live on in every Hog call."

Bielema said year five of his tenure is a big one for the program, and he likes the way things are stacking up for the Razorbacks.

"We want to raise the bar on the football field as well," said Bielema, after mentioning the team had its highest grade-point average ever. "We want to put ourselves in a position that we're the team that's being talked about in the SEC.

"Somebody's going to be there. Somebody's going to talk about some team that nobody knew anything about. I'm betting on the Razorbacks. I like where we're at. I really do."

Bielema acknowledged he and the Hogs have a couple of barriers to get over to attain his goal of winning the SEC.

"We've won games, but there's two teams on our schedule in the SEC West that we haven't beaten," he said. "We haven't beaten A&M. We haven't beaten Alabama. That's something our kids are very well aware of. It's something I'm aware of."

Bielema also did not shy away from the team's lackluster finish in 2016, which included fall-from-ahead losses at Missouri and against Virginia Tech in part because of scoreless second halves.

"At the end of the year we lost two games that unfortunately didn't go our way," Bielema said. "It was very upsetting.

"But our guys didn't run away from it. I as the head coach didn't. I know our staff and our players didn't. We owned it. We're a part of it. It's on our hearts. It's on our hearts daily."

Bielema said he wasn't going to make any predictions on what the team was going to do or how many games the Hogs would win, but he did say it was going to be a lot of fun, particularly the season opener in Little Rock against Florida A&M and the Week 2 game against TCU at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"It's going to be awesome," he said of the Thursday night opener at War Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31. "Our kids are going to be excited. It's going to be one of the first games of the college football season."

Bielema also made note of the ongoing construction in the north end zone at Razorback Stadium.

"Even though it's not completed, our kids would tell you it's louder with the enclosure down there," he said. "It's going to be a loud environment, and you can make it 10 times that. I can't wait for TCU to roll into town. We played in their backyard last year. They're playing in our backyard now."

The Razorbacks brought 106 players to the banquet, and 47 of them participated in the string of introductions of fellow players in alphabetical order to open the program, beginning with defensive end McTelvin Agim and concluding with tailback David Williams, who thanked the fans for turning out for the event.

The introduction string has been ripe for digs at teammates during the Bielema era, but the players kept it light Friday.

In his question-and-answer session with Barrett, Enos heaped praise on Allen.

"He's had a tremendous camp," Enos said. "His footwork, his decision-making, his pocket posture have been great. He's an outstanding player and a lot of fun to coach."

Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said the defensive players have been "sponges" in their pursuit of putting a new 3-4 defense on the field.

"It goes back to the spring, and our kids' retention level was very high," Rhoads said. "That high retention allowed us to stay on track with our installation and we never got behind.

"They have a chip on their shoulders from the numbers from last year. They believe they're a good defense."

Sports on 08/19/2017

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