FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said he had a chance to sit down and introduce himself to Knile Davis soon after he joined the program.
But by that time, Bielema said it already was too late to try and convince Davis to stick around to be a key figure in Arkansas’ new-look offense in 2013. The redshirt junior had signed with an agent and entered the 2013 NFL Draft.
“He had a little bit of buyer’s remorse in talking with him here,” Bielema said Saturday. “My running back, (Wisconsin’s) Montee Ball, won the Doak Walker the night before. So he knows what we love to do and he kind of expressed that.
“But he had already gone down a path that was pretty well-planned out already.”
Davis is one of two Arkansas juniors to declare for the 2013 NFL Draft, joining offensive guard Alvin Bailey. Bielema said he never had a chance to talk to Bailey before the Broken Arrow, Okla., native made his decision and signed with an agent.
Other juniors believed to be looking at options included defensive end Chris Smith, center Travis Swanson and defensive tackle Byran Jones. Bielema, who met with the players who will be part in the senior class next season before the winter break, said no one else has told him they plan to leave the program at this point.
He also said no other player has requested a release to transfer to another school.
Davis rushed for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010, but missed 2011 with a fractured ankle. He disappointed in 2012, rushing for 377 yards and two touchdowns after being touted as a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate. Davis finished second on the team in rushing behind senior Dennis Johnson (757 yards, eight touchdowns).
Bailey, meanwhile, started every game for the third straight season. He redshirted the 2009 season, but played in and started 38 games in his three years on the field.
“I wish those guys the best of luck,” Bielema said of Davis and Bailey. “Obviously wish nothing but success for them in the future.”
JUCOs on campus
Arkansas signed five junior college players last Wednesday. Four of them should be able to enroll in classes for the spring semester and participate in spring practices.
Bielema said Hartnell (Calif.) Community College cornerback Carroll Washington, College of the Siskiyous (Calif.) linebacker Myke Tavarres, Georgia Military Academy cornerback Tiquention Coleman and Butler County (Kan.) Community College tackle John McClure should be on campus this winter. Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College linebacker Martrell Spaight won’t be able to arrive until the summer because he needs to complete one course required to enroll at Arkansas.
Spaight, a North Little Rock native, had been verbally committed to Kansas State before being recruited by Bielema last week.
“I think it gives you a great indication of how bad he wanted to play in his home state, how bad he wanted to play at Arkansas,” Bielema said. “Because he could have went to other schools, could have gone there immediately without taking that class and he chose to delay his admittance and take his class because he wanted to be a Razorback. Because he wanted to play for the home state.”
Bielema said all five junior college players will count toward the 25 Arkansas is allowed to sign in its 2013 class. So there are only 20 spots remaining for prospects.
“We wanted to make sure that it was looked at intensely as we can, but there doesn’t seem to be any opportunities to do that moving forward,” Bielema said. “So the 25 that we have will obviously be the maximum we can get involved with.”
Bret and Barry
Bielema was asked about his relationship with Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez since his decision to leave the Badgers for the Razorbacks. Bielema said he has reached out to Alvarez a couple of times since moving to Arkansas, but the two haven’t spoken since their face-to-face meeting in New York City on Dec. 4.
“We’ve got common friends,” said Bielema, who was an assistant on Alvarez’s staff before being promoted by the athletic director to head coach in 2005. “I think we’re going to get to where we need to be. But I knew he’s going to be very upset with me for a long time. Hopefully over time we’ll be able to erase that.”
Bielema asked Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long not to contact Alvarez before speaking to his coach about the position. The reason for doing it was simple: Alvarez has talked him out of other opportunities to leave in the past. So Bielema said he had accepted Arkansas’ offer before meeting with Alvarez to tell him the news.
“I went and told Coach Alvarez in New York in his hotel room and told him what I was planning on doing,” Bielema said. “I gave him the reasons why I felt this was an opportunity that I couldn’t let go. I was very emotional, and gave him a hug. He said some good things and we walked out the door. The competitive nature in both of us, I think that quickly changed five minutes later, and we haven’t spoken since.”
Alvarez is coaching the Badgers in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. He hired former Utah State coach Gary Andersen to replace Bielema last week.
The trend of increased pay for Arkansas’ new football staff continued when salaries for two administrative position were released late last week.
Mark Taurisani, the program’s new director of football operations, will earn $150,000 according to his offer letter with the school. It’s a 44 percent increase in pay from Mark Robinson, who earned $103,800 in the position last year.
Chris Hauser, who was named director of on-campus recruiting, will earn $80,000 with the Razorbacks. It’s a 43 percent increase in pay from Nick Holt, the former Washington defensive coordinator who earned $55,735 in the role in 2012.
Both Taurisani and Hauser followed Bielema from Wisconsin.
Spring football plan
Bielema revealed his spring practice with the Razorbacks on Saturday.
Arkansas will open spring practice with a workout on Sunday, March 10, according to Bielema. He said the Razorbacks also plan to practice Tuesday (March 12) and Thursday (March 14) of that week before taking some time off because of the university’s spring break schedule (March 18-22).
Bielema said Arkansas would then return to campus and hold three workouts a week for the next four weeks. The spring game is scheduled for April 20.
“It’s just a formula we’ve used and one that I think will be really, really good,” Bielema said of his spring schedule.