SEC Media Days began on Monday, and Bret Bielema’s name almost immediately began trending on Twitter. The fifth-year Arkansas head coach made headlines as he delved into his accidental facetiming of SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey following a trip to Chipotle.
After speaking about the three Razorbacks he brought with him from Fayetteville – quarterback Austin Allen, center Frank Ragnow, and defensive back Kevin Richardson II – Bielema discussed the disappointing end to the 2016 campaign and the excitement of the upcoming season.
Bielema’s first question picked up where the Razorbacks’ regular season left off: with Missouri. When asked if the surprising loss to the Tigers may help to stoke the rivalry between the schools, Bielema responded by saying, “We didn't do it for that reason obviously.” The disappointment for Arkansas didn’t end in Columbia: the Razorbacks would go on to blow a 24-point halftime lead to Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl.
It’s not all bad news, though. Bielema stated that he is all for doing anything he can to “flame the fire” that is Arkansas’ rivalry with Missouri. So far in Bielema’s case, “flaming the fire” has included speaking with both Gary Pinkel and Barry Odom on the state of the rivalry, as well as researching the possibility of a high school all-star game crossover between Arkansas and Missouri athletes.
While Bielema admits that it’s “hard to create a bunch of history overnight,” he does believe that the rivalry is building on its own and that the nationally-televised CBS broadcast the Friday after Thanksgiving is a tremendous help.
Bielema responds to a question regarding The Battle Line Rivalry with Missouri. #SECMD17 pic.twitter.com/1xwMoRnTXu— Ethan Triebsch (@etriebsch) July 10, 2017
All three Razorback athletes in attendance had similar opinions on last season’s Missouri game: move on. Quarterback Austin Allen briefly mentioned the game as a source of motivation for the team. “Going back and watching the second half of the Missouri game and the [Virginia] Tech game, it just steams me and really has driven us this offseason.”
Allen also mentioned the quality stable of SEC quarterbacks entering the 2017 season, one that includes Missouri junior Drew Lock. “I think we have a really talented group in the SEC,” he said, “as good as we’ve had it in a long time.”
Potential All-SEC center Frank Ragnow was also asked about the Missouri game and said only that “I’m not worried about Missouri right now, I’m worried about Florida A&M,” alluding to the Razorbacks’ week one matchup against the Rattlers.
Ragnow said he’s looking forward to using last season as motivation and a source of growth. “I think today is making sure we don’t act like last season didn’t happen, but we definitely learned from it and we are growing from it.”
Finally, defensive back Kevin Richardson II had much to say about the Tigers. When asked which quarterback in the league has been most difficult to face, Richardson stated that, besides Allen, Lock was his choice. “I remember watching him struggle his freshman year, then have a standout sophomore season,” he said.
About the Battle Line Rivalry, Richardson admitted that the Tigers are a “talented football team,” but the defensive back says that he doesn’t view the matchup as a rivalry game. While not completely opposed to the conference building new rivalries, he said, “Growing up, the rivalry was LSU versus Arkansas. That’s still my rivalry.” When asked about the Razorbacks’ loss to the Tigers last season Richardson calmly responded: “Last year is last year.”
Arkansas DB Kevin Richardson II on The Battle Line Rivalry and last year's loss to Missouri: pic.twitter.com/IXio4jOZMe— Ethan Triebsch (@etriebsch) July 10, 2017