HOOVER, Ala. — Bret Bielema didn’t bite this time. Not really.
For the second straight year, the Arkansas coach had to respond at Southeastern Conference media days to another coach’s skepticism about his contention that fast-paced offenses are hazardous to defensive players.
A year ago, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn said he initially thought that was a joke and Bielema fired back that he’s no comedian.
On Wednesday, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said the contention that uptempo offenses lead to any more injuries is “fiction.”
“I don’t buy the health issue in any way,” Pinkel said. “No one has ever come to me all those years and said, ‘Gosh, I’m really concerned about the health of our teams playing these fast-paced offenses.’”
Bielema’s response a few hours later was calm and good-humored, but he’s no less convinced of his stance either.
“Not to carry from last year but I’m probably more of a reality-based movie guy more than fiction,” said Bielema, who lobbied for a 10-second minimum between plays. “I deal more in what I know, what I see, what I believe. Have I softened in my view of fast-paced offenses? If you ask me in that tense, you’re asking me have I softened my view on player safety. The answer would be no.”
The differing views help make the season-opener with defending SEC champion Auburn a little more intriguing. Bielema and Malzahn certainly are polar opposites in their preferred offensive styles. The Arkansas coach said maybe he’s not going to break bread with Malzahn but he’s also not going to start “throwing bread at him and rocks and everything else.”
Mainly, the Razorbacks view the Aug. 30 opener as a chance to make quite a statement that they’ve come a long way since going winless in league games during Bielema’s debut season. He said it’s been a motivator for his team since the schedule was announced.
Bielema is hardly guaranteeing a dramatic turnaround in Year 2, but said positives he’s seen in areas like academics, off-the-field behavior should translate into more success on the field.
“When that thing comes full-circle, we’re going to start to win,” Bielema said. “When we win, it’s going to be able to maintain a winning style than this other thing that we’ve been living through.”
Another positive from the offseason, Bielema said, has been what he’s seen from quarterback Brandon Allen, who struggled at times last season for the league’s worst pass offense.
Bielema said Allen had “probably one of the best offseasons that I’ve ever seen a positional player have, let alone a quarterback.”
“He’s gotten stronger, he’s gotten better mentally,” the coach said. “He understands expectations he needs to fulfill as a quarterback.”