FAYETTEVILLE — You have to hand it to Bret Bielema.
The man certainly knows how to make an entrance, even if he hasn’t coached a game yet at Arkansas. From one-time critic of the Southeastern Conference while at Wisconsin and now a rebel in his new league, Bielema has come full circle in his nine months with the Razorbacks.
And that was just off the field.
Now, Bielema is finally ready to show off the results of the work he’s put in over his short time with the Razorbacks. More specifically, he’s ready to take on the SEC’s best on the field rather than with his words — as has been the case seemingly time and again up until now.
What Bielema inherited at Arkansas was a flawed team with scars that ran deep from the post-Bobby Petrino fallout, as evidenced by last year’s 4-8 collapse and being picked to finish last in the SEC West this year.
Just don’t try and tell Bielema that. The former walk-on turned big-time coach is nothing if not full of confidence, which is exactly what he’s tried to instill in the wounded Razorbacks, who were among the SEC’s best prior to last year’s meltdown.
He’s also provided Arkansas with a much-needed dose of stability after last season’s debacle with interim coach John L. Smith. It’s that foundation that has Arkansas confident it can excel in the underdog role, as well as avoid the bottoming out of a year ago. The opener is Aug. 31 at home against Louisiana-Lafayette.
“It all starts with your head coach,” Arkansas center Travis Swanson said. “If your head coach has confidence, that’s your momentum right there. I know everyone’s voted us as low as you can go. The only way you can go is up.”