FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Bret Bielema has spent the majority of his time away from Arkansas since being hired in December.
From speaking engagements across the state to recruiting visits across the country, with a brief vacation to the beach in the mix, the former Wisconsin coach has had little time in his new home in Fayetteville.
Bielema will have a chance to settle into his new surroundings when the Razorbacks begin spring practice on Sunday. More importantly, he'll finally have the opportunity to get a good look at what Arkansas' players have to offer on the field.
The Razorbacks will practice 15 times during the spring, finishing up with the spring game on April 20. There are plenty of questions coming off a disastrous 4-8 season that followed the firing of coach Bobby Petrino for hiring his mistress.
Bielema was hired to restore the program to the levels it reached while compiling a 21-5 record over Petrino's last two seasons.
His first priority, however, is simply finding a starting quarterback in the wake of Tyler Wilson's graduation. Senior Brandon Mitchell and sophomore Brandon Allen are the expected front-runners in the looming competition, but Bielema hasn't tipped his hand so far.
In fact, the coach wasn't even made available by Arkansas to talk in advance of spring practice. A spokesman said Bielema wasn't comfortable talking about his new players until after he had seen them for a few practices.
Bielema did speak to The Associated Press last month prior to national signing day, at which time he said he was looking for a "clean, physical game" from the Razorbacks during the spring. More than anything, he wanted the players to embrace him and his staff as they look to bring a more personal approach than what Arkansas was accustomed to under Petrino.
"I'm not trying to be their dad, I'm not trying to be their brother, I'm not trying to be their uncle," Bielema said. "I'm trying to be their coach, and I want them to know I care about the next four years, the next 40 years, of their life."