‘Old Man Football’ Prevails
The swirling cyclone of coaching rumors has finally settled down, as Arkansas has found its home run hire. Arkansas announced Tuesday night that it hired Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, who led the Badgers to the last three Rose Bowls representing the Big Ten.
The hiring of Bielema signifies that Athletic Director Jeff Long wanted to not only contend with Les Miles and Nick Saban in the Southeastern Conference, but also be able to win conference and national titles. Bielema has had some of the Big Ten’s toughest teams in his years at Wisconsin and looks to bring that same bruising style to the SEC.
While Mike Gundy, Chris Petersen and Gary Patterson were some of the names paraded around this past week, Bielema is the guy Arkansas needed most. Offensive-minded coaches in the SEC might wow you with style, but National Championships are won by great defenses and a solid running game.
Bielema had both a great defense and solid running game while at Wisconsin. The Badger defense ranked 13th nationally in an atypically down year in 2012. His latest running back, Montee Ball, is the NCAA career touchdowns and rushing touchdowns leader and was a finalist for the Heisman in 2011.
These were things Jeff Long clearly realized while getting physically beaten by Alabama over and over the past few seasons. If you can’t beat their style of play, you might as well join them.
The only concern I might have is that Bielema hasn’t recruited this part of the country. In his 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes, Bielema had only three players from the south (all from Florida) and mostly recruits from the North and northeast states. It would be wise to keep a guy like Tim Horton or Bobby Allen on the staff to not lose touch with the Arkansas and Texas recruiting bases.
However, that is only a short-term worry, as new coaches usually have some growing pains in the first few years. It will be interesting to see what Bielema can do with the current talent. The Hogs return much youth on defense, a defense Bielema and his staff may be able to mold into a much improved version of last season’s squad.
On offense, it is expected Brandon Allen will be the starting quarterback, but keep an eye on Jonathan Williams and Knile Davis. Wisconsin running backs always had impressive seasons, and it will be interesting to see how they will be used.
Now, all Hogs fans can do is sit, wait and speculate for nine months about how good the Razorbacks will be in the near and distant future.
Cameron McCauley a staff writer for the Arkansas Traveler. Follow the sports section on Twitter @UATravSports.