Planning for success: Bielema on how Arkansas utilized its off week

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said his team needed to get reps during the bye week. AP Photo/Danny Johnston

Coaches have varying philosophies on how to handle an off week in the schedule and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has his own take on how to utilize it.

The Razorbacks, who were off last week and host Auburn at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday, practiced on the field four times to allow some younger players to get some extra repetitions and get a jump start on preparations for the Tigers before resuming their normal game-week schedule on Sunday.

That practice, Bielema told reporters on Monday, was crisp, clean and much to the coaching staff's liking.

"We had a 12-period practice on Sunday that was probably the best practice of the year," Bielema said. "I get in and start asking every one of those coaches. I go 'Why? Why?' … We're going to ask every one of our positional leaders why they felt Sunday was so good. What's the difference between a 12-period and an 18-period practice? Well, it's 30 minutes but is it really that big of a deal? If I say we're going to give 30 [fewer minutes] are you going to give me that much better effort and that much tempo? It makes you think."

While at Wisconsin, Bielema's teams had success in games following an off week, going 5-1. The Hogs have lost their only two games in those scenarios under Bielema, but last year's loss was a narrow 14-13 defeat at the hands of Alabama.

Bielema said he asks players' opinions to help adjust how he approaches those weeks.

"A lot of it is player feedback," Bielema said. "I'll bring in selected seniors and just ask them some really poignant questions. ‘Buddy, you're out the door now. What was good, what was bad, and why?' They lived it. They want you to have success. So that's probably the No. 1 thing."

Some coaches may prefer lighter workloads. Bielema said his team needs reps.

"What brings us success isn't necessarily going to bring other people success," Bielema said. "I've read at some places where they don't practice the whole week. They give the kids an entire week where they don't practice football which would drive me mental. But for some places, it works very well. I read that about a team that is currently undefeated. Again, it's all in the formula. Our kids need to play football to get better."

So the Razorbacks did. Players who carried a heavy workload in the first six games of the season were given extra time off the field to recharge, but Bielema said he was overall pleased with how the week went.

With a late-morning kickoff on tap -- the first such kickoff for Arkansas this season -- Bielema said the Hogs will emulate that, taking advantage of a break in Arkansas' academic calendar.

"We're actually on fall break so our kids don't have class [Monday] and [Tuesday]," Bielema said. "[Tuesday] we'll actually simulate Saturday's pregame and everything. We didn't have any early kickoffs prior to this one so Tuesday morning we'll come over with an early morning pregame meal at 7 o'clock in the morning just like it'll be on Saturday. We'll go through [the routine] Tuesday just like we will on Saturday, which I think will be a tremendous benefit for some of the guys who haven't had an early kickoff yet. It's a lot different. I always think it's a little bit easier to go late. But to go early, I think it's a little bit different."