With an entirely new coaching staff and new starters at quarterback and running back, there's a lot to look for at Arkansas' Red-White Game on Saturday in Fayetteville.
Bielema brings a new identity to Arkansas - after Bobby Petrino's fall from grace and a real downer of a season under John L. Smith, Bielema's hire was praised. Its been said about a million or so times that he wants to make the team tougher, and he's expressed belief his team is picking up. Now's a chance to show that off.
It won't be the first shot Arkansas fans has had to see their team - Bielema opened a Saturday scrimmage up a few weeks ago, and treated fans to a selection of reggae from his iPod - but there's obviously still a lot to learn about a squad that's replacing pretty much all of its skill players and trying to institute an entirely new gameplan.
The questions start at quarterback. A duo of Brandons - Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell - are going for the starting spot. Allen started a game last year against Alabama while Tyler Wilson was out, which didn't go so well, and finished the year completing less than 50 percent of his passes. Mitchell's an intriguing athlete - formerly a dual-sport athlete in football and basketball, Mitchell played quarterback as a freshman and sophomore before spending his junior season as a wide receiver. Allen has seemed to be the favorite, in part because the team needs playmakers at wide receiver where Mitchell is a proven entity, and in part because reports seem to indicate he's been a better quarterback - in the open scrimmage, Allen went 9-for-13 with a touchdown and a pick while Mitchell went 7-for-16 with a pick.
That's hypothetically a pretty important thing for Arkansas, as offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has a reputation as a pass-happy guy from his stints at Purdue and Tennessee. But Bielema's style of play at Wisconsin is for pounding the ball, and running back Jonathan Williams fits that mold. Williams, a 6'0, 220-pound bruiser type, takes over the ball-carrying reins after limited action behind Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson, and the spring game could indicate for Arkansas fans how well he can dish out hits.
The defense is also new - although there's a lot of returning starters, Chris Ash, who came with Bielema from Wisconsin is installing his system. has said over the course of spring that although the scheme was tough to get across to his new players at first, the team has come along.
The Razorbacks have broken spring attendance records two years in a row - 45,250 fans turned up last year - so with a new coach, that might even increase - there should be a decent crowd on hand. The game is free, with kickoff at 2 p.m. It'll be broadcast on Cox Sports TV.