Watch:

Arkansas' Bielema to turn focus back on the field

AP - Sports
Arkansas' Bielema to turn focus back on the field
.

View photo

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema adjusts his headphones in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Auburn in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Beth Hall)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Bret Bielema hasn't exactly taken time off from the spotlight following his winless debut in the Southeastern Conference.

The Arkansas coach, never one to avoid a healthy debate, has spent much of the offseason in the news for his comments about whether to slow the offenses in college football. He returns to the field Sunday when the Razorbacks open spring practice - a welcome reprieve for the second-year coach who suffered though a 3-9 season in his first season after leaving Wisconsin.

''I can't wait,'' Bielema said. ''I think our kids have been chomping at the bit.''

The Razorbacks lost their final nine games last season, including all eight SEC games. It was their first winless conference season since entering the league in 1992.

They were leading LSU in the final game until a touchdown late in the fourth-quarter by the Tigers mercifully brought Arkansas' season to a close - the second straight year the school missed out on a bowl game in the wake of the scandal that led the former coach Bobby Petrino's firing.

Bielema has had plenty of time to think about that loss and a season that saw the Razorbacks finish 12th in the SEC with an average of 20.7 points per game.

Bielema has since taken the approach that the final dagger in the miserable year might have been the best thing in the long term for Arkansas.

''Just knowing the mentality and some of the guys, I really think they would have thought they had arrived if they beat LSU there at the end,'' Bielema said. ''I'm almost in the belief that maybe, although it's nothing I wanted to live through, that maybe that might have been a blessing in disguise, to show that we had made progress but we're not quite where we need to be.''

Much of the attention surrounding Bielema's offseason has been focused on the much-scrutinized proposal that would have penalized offenses for snapping the ball before 10 seconds had run off the play clock.

Bielema supported the proposal and drew attention for calling the issue a ''matter of safety, life and death.''

The proposal was tabled by the NCAA football rules committee, meaning the age of the up-tempo offense will continue this season. Bielema still hasn't commented publicly on the decision, though his primary concern is improving the SEC's worst passing offense.

Arkansas was last in the league last season with an average of 148.5 yards passing per game, leaving much of the attention this spring centered on the progress of incumbent starting quarterback Brandon Allen and his host of challengers - including younger brother, Austin.

Brandon Allen battled injuries for much of last season in his first year as the full-time starter, completing just 128 of 258 passes (49.6 percent) while throwing 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

The Razorbacks brought in one quarterback, Missouri prep standout Rafe Peavey, during the offseason, and last season's backup, AJ Derby, is back along with freshman Damon Mitchell.

It's Austin Allen, however, who is widely expected to be the primary challenger for his older brother's job - possibly opening the door for a tricky brother vs. brother situation for Bielema. The brothers were teammates at nearby Fayetteville in high school, but the younger Allen spent much of his sophomore season on the bench backing up his brother.

Austin Allen then took over as the starter after his older brother left for college, winning two prep state championships before redshirting at Arkansas last season.

''Both are great, but both are unique in what they are,'' Bielema said. ''I think (Brandon Allen), with just that full year of playing, that gives you such an advantage as a college football player, but especially at the quarterback position. That is so hard to put a price tag on, and that's what probably separates them right now.''

View Comments (45)
  • Gill rejects FIFA role after 'terribly damaging events'

    English Football Association vice-chairman David Gill confirmed on Saturday he will not take up his post on FIFA's executive committee following the re-election of Sepp Blatter as president of soccer's world governing body. "This action is not … More »

    Reuters - 19 minutes ago
  • Olympic champion Eaton pulls out of Hypo with back injury

    GOETZIS, Austria (AP) -- Olympic and world decathlon champion Ashton Eaton has pulled out of the Hypo Meeting citing lower back problems. … More »

    AP - Sports - 22 minutes ago
  • Panama holds Argentina to draw at Under-20 World Cup

    Panama holds Argentina to draw at Under-20 World Cup

    Argentina captain Angel Correa scored both his team's goals as the tournament favorites were held to a 2-2 draw by Panama on Saturday in their opening match at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. Correa underwent surgery last year after a routine medical … More »

    AP - Sports - 28 minutes ago
  • Blatter says he will forgive but won't forget UEFA rebellion

    Blatter says he will forgive but won't forget UEFA rebellion

    Emboldened by his fresh mandate to lead world soccer, Sepp Blatter made it clear there may be consequences for European leaders who tried to oust him from FIFA. ''I forgive everyone but I don't forget,'' Blatter told Swiss television channel RTS. … More »

    AP - Sports - 46 minutes ago
  • Blatter hits out at U.S. authorities, UEFA

    Blatter hits out at U.S. authorities, UEFA

    By Brian Homewood ZURICH (Reuters) - Sepp Blatter has said that the events in the run-up to his re-election as FIFA president "do not smell right" and he was the victim of "hate" on the part of European soccer's governing body UEFA. Blatter … More »

    Reuters - 54 minutes ago