Favorite

Positive developments for Razorbacks 

Season on the turf is over, but let's start with two probably perfunctory notes about recent shakeups on the Bret Bielema's football staff at Arkansas.

Losing offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, he of the indisputably sorry win-loss record while at the helm of Tennessee and Arkansas's offenses, is now headed northeasterly to Pitt. He's not a bad guy, he embraced a balanced philosophy and he seemed utterly willing to win the Bielema way.

But the reality is that Chaney's playcalling was, regrettably, a costly thing too often. Even in the arduous first season of 2013, the Hogs were in some games (chief among them, Rutgers, Mississippi State and LSU) where a little ingenuity in the late stages would've gone a long way. Instead, the team clammed up and the die was cast for 2013: If the Hogs wanted to thrive this year, some better fourth-quarter game management would make inroads to the top of the league rankings.

The Hogs were marginally better and savvier offensively, but we all know the four-win improvement would've been a potentially seven- or eight-win leap if the fourth quarter woes hadn't persisted. It seemed to any casual observer that Robb Smith's unit was done a disservice by Chaney's in those late losses. When the Hogs did not register a single fourth-quarter point in the losses to Missouri, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Alabama, all games well within reach, it spelled the end for the gregarious OC. His move to a program like Pitt suggests he wasn't being welcomed back, and it further leaves the impression that other candidates (a Mark Mangino, for instance, or TCU wunderkind Doug Meacham) may have been sought out well in advance.

Linebackers coach Randy Shannon is gone, too, headed back to Florida to join new Gators coach Jim McElwain. He took a mild swipe at Arkansas in the process, wryly stating that he liked the Florida mystique and desire for championships. The implication was that the Hogs are just eternally content with sitting on the cusp instead of climbing right over it. Regardless, Shannon was an obvious asset but a nonetheless replaceable one. Provided that Sam Pittman stays in the fold the pipeline serving the university with both linemen and Florida prospects, the departure of Shannon may not sting as much as it would appear.

The hardwood Hogs sprang back into and up the rankings, shooting in at No. 23. To then nudge up to 19th, they needed to slough off their long history of pitiful road openers. After 15 listless minutes at Stegeman Coliseum, Georgia's modest and perennially uninteresting joint, it looked like another craptastic way to begin the league slate.

Something snapped. Arkansas surged from behind and took command in a methodical fashion, and it was on the shoulders of a typically unreliable player. Alandise Harris confidently stroked his lean-back jumper to the tune of 15 points, many coming in big moments down the stretch. Anton Beard steadied the team from the point. And Bobby Portis anchored the squad with 15 of his 21 in the first half, keeping the team in range despite falling behind by 13, and Michael Qualls had 15 in yet another stable, multifaceted effort. It was a quality road win in a scenario that almost always has led to heartache.

And it buoyed the Hogs for the follow-up at home. Portis was an unstoppable force with an SEC-season-best 32, and as Vanderbilt's young gunners surged within a point in the second half, a quick flurry of seven points in less than half a minute kept the Commodores at bay. Qualls was again magnificent, proving conclusively that he is the antithesis to the usual Hog "athlete" who never converts to a true skilled basketballer. While the Landis Williamses and Antwon Halls of the past could hammer a dunk and make highlight reels in other ways, they could never mature enough to offer a tangible effect from game to game. Qualls, on the other hand, now sports a dependable shooting stroke, a menacing but controlled defensive presence and a coolness on the free-throw line.

It's all a refreshing scene. Will it last? The schedule plays well for that. If Arkansas can set out to a 4-0 or 5-0 SEC start, it may translate to a Top 10 ranking* and not just in the RPI, where the team has already benefited from its stronger schedule and the conference's significant progress overall.

*This was written before Tuesday's road loss to Tennessee

Favorite

Speaking of...

  • Changes needed

    January 5, 2017
    Those who have read this column with some degree of regularity know that I've held fast to the belief that Bret Bielema can and will revive the Arkansas football program. /more/
  • Belk bowling, b-ball

    December 8, 2016
    Before Pearls breaks its brief silent treatment about Razorback basketball's latest bid to shake off listless irrelevance, we'll spend a word or two on the Belk Bowl, where the football team draws a Dec. 29 matchup with Virginia Tech in Charlotte. /more/
  • Woeful

    December 1, 2016
    On Thanksgiving night, Bret Bielema could settle into his bed knowing that after a rather miserable 2013 inauguration, he had slipped comfortably into his job and the results were bearing some small but edible fruits for this ravenous fan base. He was only 25-24, but 18-10 with two bowl wins over his last 28 contests, a smattering of takedowns of ranked teams, and a stabilized roster that showed off the staff's endeavors to enlist and develop a caliber of player that would lead to better days ahead in a rugged conference. /more/
  • Deflated

    November 17, 2016
    Foolish consistency, per Emerson, is the hobgoblin of little minds. What commentary he would've offered about the Arkansas Razorbacks' 10 weeks of wild inconsistency is for debate, but he might've been more profane than pithy if he had to sit through this madness. /more/
  • After Auburn

    October 27, 2016
    I'm not one for hyperbole, but the mere mention of "56-3" changes things. /more/
  • Lessons learned

    October 20, 2016
    Picture Bret Bielema pole-vaulting for a minute. Then, once the laughter subsides, hear me out with this absurd analogy. /more/
  • UA faculty member apologizes for cursing football coach

    October 11, 2016
    The University of Arkansas faculty member who was arrested after cursing Hog football coach Bret Bielema following the Razorbacks' loss has apologized for his actions. /more/
  • On to Alabama

    October 6, 2016
    With War Memorial Stadium's mystique and alleged efficacy dying by the year, it was at least comforting to watch Arkansas finally devour a purported cupcake there. Bret Bielema boosted his Little Rock record to 2-3, with those two wins coming against Football Championship Subdivision schools, after the Hogs pummeled Alcorn State 52-10 on Saturday. /more/
  • Hogs blew it

    September 29, 2016
    Arkansas needed to beat Texas A&M. That's it. Sometimes perfunctory is poetry. /more/
  • 2-0

    September 15, 2016
    If you tuned in to ESPN Saturday night or settled into your seats at Fort Worth's compact but energetic Amon Carter Stadium, you undoubtedly felt like the impending Arkansas-TCU tilt was going to be compelling, if for no other reason because it pitted a burgeoning Big 12 power against a rising SEC program, with both having that Southwest Conference badging that went dormant a quarter-century ago. /more/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Critical stretch

    The minute you take a shine to an Arkansas Razorback team is almost assuredly the same minute you have your sanity tested.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Solidly second tier

    It only makes sense that in this numbing era of Razorback slip-and-falls, the Hogs could really put vaunted Kentucky to the test at Rupp Arena for a good 30 minutes of action ... and end up losing by 26 points.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Changes needed

    Those who have read this column with some degree of regularity know that I've held fast to the belief that Bret Bielema can and will revive the Arkansas football program.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Critical stretch

    The minute you take a shine to an Arkansas Razorback team is almost assuredly the same minute you have your sanity tested.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Solidly second tier

    It only makes sense that in this numbing era of Razorback slip-and-falls, the Hogs could really put vaunted Kentucky to the test at Rupp Arena for a good 30 minutes of action ... and end up losing by 26 points.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Changes needed

    Those who have read this column with some degree of regularity know that I've held fast to the belief that Bret Bielema can and will revive the Arkansas football program.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation