March 13, 2015

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Bret Bielema enjoyed Arkansas' return to Southeastern Conference relevancy as much as anyone else last season.

That hardly means that the Razorbacks coach is satisfied with a 7-6 season, even if it came on the heels of a two-season collapse and signified the school's football rebirth following the Bobby Petrino scandal.

Arkansas begins its third spring under Bielema on Monday, doing so with a sense of anticipation not seen since a 21-5 stretch in 2010-11 that saw the Razorbacks reach the Sugar Bowl and defeat Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl.

The positive feelings stem from a finish to the 2014 season that saw Arkansas win three of its final four games. Led by the 10th-ranked defense in the country, the Razorbacks snapped a 17-game SEC losing streak with back-to-back shutouts of LSU and Mississippi and ended the season with an overwhelming 31-7 win over Texas.

They enter this spring faced with the daunting task of replacing All-SEC performers Martrell Spaight and Trey Flowers from the defense that held the Longhorns to 59 yards in the Texas Bowl.

Bielema's biggest concern, however, is guarding against a sense of complacency following last season's strong finish.

''It's not a landing point, it's a launching point,'' Bielema said. ''I appreciate the positive feel and the energy, but the only reason we made progress is because of what we work what we do and what we learn. I don't want them to begin to think they have arrived a little bit.''

Some things to watch this spring for Arkansas, which ends with the Red-White game on April 25:

STACKED BACKFIELD: Running back Jonathan Williams surprised some by returning for his senior season. However, his return gives the Razorbacks arguably the strongest backfield in the SEC - with Williams and junior Alex Collins the only 1,000-yard rushing teammates in the nation last season. Bielema said Collins had an appendicitis recently and will be limited early during the spring, giving freshman Juan Day an opportunity to add his name to the crowded backfield mix.

QUARTERBACK DERBY: Senior Brandon Allen returns for his third season as the starting quarterback after throwing 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions last season. What bears watching is the race for Allen's backup, with his younger brother Austin Allen faced with challenges from freshman Rafe Peavey and early enrollee Ty Storey.

LEADERSHIP VOID: Replacing Spaight, who led the SEC with 128 tackles last season, at weakside linebacker is junior Brooks Ellis - who had 72 tackles while playing at middle linebacker last season. Junior Josh Williams replaces Ellis in the middle, while juniors JaMichael Winston and Deatrich Wise are tasked with filling the hold of Flowers at the defensive end positions. Bielema called the spring a ''big, big deal'' for the retooled defense.

LINE SHIFT: Arkansas once again figures to feature one of the most physical offensive lines in all of college football this season, though it has undergone a remodeling of sorts. Massive 6-foot-10 tackle Dan Skipper has moved from the left side to the right, while former guard Denver Kirkland is listed as first on the depth chart at left tackle entering the spring.

COORDINATOR CHANGE: Former offensive coordinator Jim Chaney left during the offseason for Pittsburgh, and Bielema hired former Central Michigan coach Dan Enos to continue featuring the pro-style offense he prefers. Bielema has lauded Enos' simple method of communication so far with the Razorbacks, and the spring will be key if Arkansas is to avoid a setback this fall.

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