FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema’s first spring with the Razorbacks will take place away from the public eye.
Arkansas announced Wednesday its practices will be closed to the public with the exception of the spring-ending Red-White Game. It’s a change of pace from previous coaching staffs, which opened at least a portion of spring drills to the fans.
The Razorbacks will kick off practices next week with workouts scheduled Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday before the university’s spring break. Arkansas will resume practice March 26 and practice three times a week until the spring-ending game on April 20 in Razorback Stadium.
Three practices in addition to the Red-White Game will be open to the media.
Bielema said during an interview last week his first spring with the Razorbacks will be “huge” as the coaching staff sets the foundation for the program. He was named Arkansas’ coach on Dec. 4, taking over a team that went 4-8 in 2012.
“They’ll be clean. They’ll be efficient. They’ll be aggressive,” Bielema said of his practices. “If you don’t like to play the game, you’re not going to have a lot of fun at practice. It will be two hours of hard work. We’ll play big-boy football, big-boy pads. When there’s a time to teach, we’ll teach. When there’s a time to work, they’ll work.
“If we’re going to be competitive and put us in an arena when we want to go full speed you’re going to know you’re playing big-time football.”
Bielema said the biggest goal this spring is indentifying strengths and weaknesses of returning players as the Razorbacks prepare for 2013.
Arkansas must replace veterans like quarterback Tyler Wilson, running back Knile Davis, receiver Cobi Hamilton, linebacker Alonzo Highsmith and defensive end Tenarius Wright. Some of the key returning players include quarterbacks center Travis Swanson, defensive end Chris Smith, defensive tackle Byran Jones, running back Jonathan Williams, cornerback Tevin Mitchel and linebacker Otha Peters.
The Razorbacks also have four junior college players on campus expected to make their debut during spring drills.
“I think it’s got to be open ears, open eyes for players and coaches,” Bielema said last week. “We don’t want to get ourselves locked into, ‘Hey, Johnny can or cannot do this. Johnny is really good at this. He can’t do this.’ I think it’s, let the players show us what they can and cannot do and kind of work up around that.”