Fresh off the a whirlwind trip in which he got into eight states in five days, Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema assessed how things have gone so far in what is a 14-day recruiting blitz his program is in right now.
He did so during an Thursday afternoon interview on “Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly” – talking about how he and his staff were putting the 3-9 season behind them and focusing on the future with a message to prospects.
“It is one that actually has been very well-received,” Bielema said. “We just got off the road – I just did – and I guess it was eight states and a number of days seeing a number of prospects.
“The message was come be a part of what we are building,” Bielema said. “We are going to do something here that they have never been done before. The message hasn’t changed – we came here to win the SEC.”
He pointed to the fact that Missouri and Auburn – who were 2-14 in the SEC last season – are playing in this Saturday’s SEC Championship game in Atlanta.
“I mean you look at this week’s SEC Championship game and you have Missouri won one game (actually two) in the SEC last year and Auburn, who won none,” Bielema continued, “and you realize how quickly things can turn.
“I get excited about that and we have a little bit of a construction pyramid that I share with the kids,” Bielema added. “We show the parents, we show the coaches what we have done, what we are building right now and where we are going to be. I think it is a great way to try and show them and they have been very receptive.”
Arkansas is hosting four players this weekend for official visits and then some 20 next weekend.
Bielema noted that he and his staff make sure to do their research before getting into a recruit’s home.
“I think first you have to know fully walking into every home and every school who the decision makers are,” Bielema said. “You might have an 18-year-old young man who is going to be the lone decision maker.
“If it is going to be an 18-year-old kid that is going to be heavily influenced by his dad, by his mom, maybe it’s the mom and the dad, maybe it’s a grandma, a preacher, a coach, a junior high coach, maybe a basketball coach that that they have worked with,” Bielema added.
“Each kid is different and they are going to have a key factor that is going to be there,” Bielema continued. “Hey, when you are 17, it might be a girlfriend so you have to gather as much info as you can and find out if they fit your program athletically and academically and then you have to push the right buttons.”
Bielema also stresses to not make any promises to recruits that you can’t deliver on.
“I think the first thing is to be real,” Bielema said. “These guys have had coaches all their lives. Some of them have been good, some of them have been bad, some that they can count on and some that they couldn’t.
“The one thing that I have urged – not only with myself but with my coaches – is you just have to be real with them from the get-go, don’t be a guy that promises the moon and can’t deliver,” Bielema added. “You have to be very honest in what your approach is. You have to be very detailed. There are a lot of coaches in this profession that say a lot of things, but fail to follow through so that is a key part of our recruiting process.
“Anything that you talk about, anything we say we are going to do, we better deliver because it ends up being a big thing in the end,” Bielema added.
As far as needs, Bielema said he wants to pile up depth at every spot with the 26 scholarships he plans to offer.
“With the position that we are in now, it’s universal,” Bielema said. “Every position either needs a starter or depth. It’s something right now as we are building this thing up.
“Last year I didn’t use my full allotment because we weren’t – in my opinion – here long enough to put together a complete class of all the scholarships we had,” Bielema added. “This year we are going to use them all and will sign 26 young men to come in and play football for us.
“I think a lot of them will be able to come in and play right away because we have a better idea of what our needs are,” Bielema continued. “We addressed that and we will continue to do so. There really isn’t any position where we don’t need anybody as far as a potential starter or come in and give us potential depth.”
Like every coach, Bielema wants to land as many 4 and 5 star prospects as possible, but he caution fans not to get concerned if his staff evaluates and offers someone a scholarship that doesn’t have a ton of offers.
“We are going to sign some really highly rated kids,” Bielema said. “But I saw a kid yesterday that I know is going to come in here and make a huge difference when it gets announced that he is coming and gets signed.
“They’ll say he only had this offer and that offer, but he is a freak show,” Bielema said. “It’s kind of like when we found (current Razorback freshman) Korliss Marshall. The only school that was offering him last year was UCA and – no discredit to UCA – but he had no SEC and no other BCS level offers and look at the impact that kid had.
“For those into recruiting, just be happy with what we are doing, smile, tweet away and give them as much love as you can and if they go somewhere else then drop them like a fly,” Bielema said, “get rid of them and just know we are on to bigger and better things.”
Bielema noted the SEC is a horse race and this season he did not have enough thoroughbreds, but that is something he is certainly in the market for now.
“Obviously we didn’t have enough horses to win that race,” Bielema said. “Several ballgames where we came close and I think we finished stronger than when we started. That’s always a good sign and it’s a very exciting time for the future.”