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.
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