Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy, has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Bielema's concerns not same as media's
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema addresses the team's annual NCAA college football media day event in Fayetteville, Ark., Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. Arkansas is to kick off its season at home against University of Texas-El Paso on Sept. 5. (AP Photo/Samantha Baker)
FAYETTEVILLE -- Most media outlets seem to have a specific opinion about what the Arkansas Razorbacks need to do to make up for some missing ingredients from 2014's defensive unit.
Most focus on the obvious holes left by the four players drafted into the NFL, including the All-SEC "Bermuda Triangle" of senior defensive end Trey Flowers, sophomore defensive tackle Darius Philon and senior linebacker Martrell Spaight, along with senior nickel back Tevin Mitchel.
Coach Bret Bielema has a different opinion, one he expressed in his first meeting with media since before the Razorbacks began preseason drills last Thursday.
Bielema brimmed with preseason optimism regarding the team's physical conditioning. As for the defense, he seemed much less concerned about replacing weakside linebacker Spaight with Brooks Ellis than replacing Ellis, who moved from the middle linebacker to weakside.
Also, the graduation of fifth-year senior safety Alan Turner left both tangible and intangible holes enough to make Bret fret.
Bielema summed up his middle linebacker concerns in a single sentence.
"We need more consistency out of Khalia Hackett," Bielema said.
Lettering on special teams as a true freshman, Hackett, 6-2, 230 pounds, sufficiently took charge in the middle last spring after backup middle linebacker Josh Williams was moved to outside linebacker.
Despite Hackett's success last season, it's been redshirt freshman walk-on Josh Harris from Watson Chapel leading the spring scrimmage stats from the second team.
Josh Harris is at least an inch taller than Jamel Harris, the Alabama native that Houston Nutt's staff thought might be too small when they inherited him as a 2-year letterman from the Danny Ford staff. Turned out Jamel Harris started and played big for Nutt's 1998 and 1999 Razorbacks.
Bielema and defensive coordinator Robb Smith did have some kind words for Hackett on Sunday but don't expect them to sell Josh Harris short.
A starting part of every Arkansas safety tandem since 2012, Alan Turner always seemed to lead like a senior.
Now strong safety Rohan Gaines is the secondary's lone fifth-year senior. Bielema said Gaines must play like one.
"A key for him is going to be consistency," Bielema said Saturday. "He can play as well as anybody as there is at that position. It's just that he will play eight great plays and then two of them might hurt you. We are going to really have to harp on him about being consistent."
BEARING GOOD BAD NEWS
With four big names turned pro in the wake of last season's surprisingly successful defense, much is made about Bielema calling his current "No Name" Arkansas defense "The Bad News Bears."
Perhaps not flattering, but isn't that a step up from what they were called throughout their hapless 2012 and 2013 seasons?
Fourth-year junior cornerback Jared Collins laughed loudly.
"Yeah, that's a very big step up," Collins said.
Sports on 08/10/2015
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