Well, the wait, the rumors, the sources, and the nonsense are finally over. Arkansas has a new head football coach.
It turns out Gruden’s tie color meant nothing, although I’m sure that some ‘Grudenites’ are still in denial. This coaching search has taught us a few things. That none of the sources got it right, the rumor mill rarely has the next coach’s name in it, and you don’t want to play poker with Jeff Long. Long has proven again that he has one heck of a poker face.
Brett Bielema comes to Arkansas after 7 years as the head coach at Wisconsin. While at Wisconsin he had a 68-24 overall record and 2-4 in bowl games. He was able to get his program to 3 Big Ten titles and 3 Rose Bowls with 5 out of 7 years finishing in the top 25. One of the bowl wins coming against Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl in 2006.
He is known for having a smash mouth run game. He has never had a season at Wisconsin with less than 2,000 yards gained on the ground. However, no one should overlook the passing game either. Although he has not put up the kind of passing numbers a Petrino offense was known to do, the numbers his team’s produced may be more balanced. In 2011 he had over 3,000 yards both passing and receiving. In 2011 Arkansas amassed almost 4,000 yards passing but failed to break 2,000 yards in the ground game.
Where the Hogs could really use the help is on the defensive side of the ball. Having someone to simply teach them to tackle would be an improvement. Bielema promises to bring a tough, hard-hitting defense style with him. His teams in ’11 and ’12 finished ranked 13th and 15th nationally in total defense while Arkansas finished 47th and 73rd in the same years. Who Bielema will bring in as a defense coordinator remains to be seen. (All signs point to him bringing his DC and Assoc. head coach at Wisconsin Charles Partridge) Whoever it is, it would be nice to see Arkansas start to be a hard hitting aggressive defensive team. A high-flying offense is fun to watch, however, if you take a look across the college landscape, it doesn’t take long to see the teams that win, and win consistently, do it with defense.
One of the tougher battles that Bielema will face will be in recruiting. He famously disagreed with the style of recruiting Urban Myer brought to the BIG10 when he arrived there last off season. Well, welcome to the shark tank that is the SEC, Mr. Bielema. He will now get to recruit against some of the heavy hitters of college football. It is no small task for someone who has never coached below the Mason-Dixon line. That’s not to say it can’t be done, coaches coming from the BIG10 area to the SEC have fared well in the past. Most notable would be Nick Saban, who came from Michigan State to LSU, having never coached the college ranks in the south before. It would likely make sense for him to keep Arkansas recruiting guru Tim Horton on staff. As he was instrumental in keeping the Hog recruiting class in Petrino’s first season together. A class that was a huge part of Arkansas success during his time here. I would also look for him to add a coordinator with some experience in recruiting Texas. Texas has, and always will be a must recruit state for the Hogs.
Ultimately only time will tell if Long made the hire that will get the Hogs back into the national championship hunt. Or better yet, after the season Hog fans just went through, being competitive again. With a 74% winning percentage, he definitely hired someone that knows how to win as a head coach.
I’m also willing to bet, he wears a red tie at the press conference.
Rex Crane is a new blogger on Hog Database. He is an avid fan of all things college football, Arkansas Razorback athletics and St. Louis Cardinals Baseball. Rex will bring a real world view to the happenings around Razorback sports. You can follow Rex on twitter: @hogsncards