Favorite

University of Arkansas football filling vacancies 

Arkansas basketball hasn't been helping the mood lately so let's talk again about football, that months-ago corpse you piled wet mud onto after it fudged the last nine games of the 2013 season in myriad ways.

If you weren't sold on Bielema a year ago when he boldly struck out on a public relations-boosting effort across the state, you at least felt reasonably comfortable about the competency of the staff he was putting together. Now, defensive coordinator Chris Ash has taken off for reasons that are unknown but freely speculated upon, and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge got himself a head-coaching job at Florida Atlantic, and so there's this veneer of disharmony in the ranks.

But consider that Arkansas had already secured the services of linebackers coach Randy Shannon, late of TCU but also well known for trying to clean up his alma mater in a success-flecked four years at Miami. He's a guy whose name titillated Hog fans when Bobby Petrino dismissed Willy Robinson at the end of the 2011 season, but Petrino secured Paul Haynes from Ohio State instead. Shannon's known for being a fair but hard-nosed guy, which meshes well with Bielema's style; for my money, Ash hardly distinguished himself in any way last year, though concededly, he was working with limited personnel resources. The defensive gameplans were sporadically effective, and if Shannon is being eyeballed as Ash's successor, it probably has financial merits: Shannon could get a pay bump to be DC, but also continue to shepherd the linebacking unit.

The speculation now is that without Partridge and Ash, Bielema is losing those guys to whom he was tethered at Wisconsin, for better or worse. It's arguable as to what effect this sort of staff morphing has when the first team went 3-9. Some would assert that continuity is critical to this team getting back to a sustainable and consistent degree of success. It's also possible that Bielema, cognizant of just how far the program has to come, realizes some new sparks are needed. In fairness, nobody's going to deny a position coach like Partridge a chance to flourish in a head-coaching job anywhere.

Ash's circumstances are a little stranger, no doubt. He leaves an SEC job with a sizable paycheck to essentially share defensive coordinator duties at Ohio State. You can read into it what you must, but there's no point talking about why Ash departed when the critical choice is who succeeds him. If it's Shannon, there's currency beyond theoretical measure in the hiring of a highly respected, still-young African-American former head coach who has honed his craft at various locales. There's also the risk that he gets the same kind of opportunity that Partridge seized upon, which you again can't begrudge.

The reason all this coaching upheaval is significant is obviously because it's January and signing day looms in a matter of days. Arkansas already was down in the pecking order regionally and for the Razorbacks to excel with this class and those beyond, player-coach rapport is more essential than it's ever been. We saw that Bielema had a dramatic influence on Alex Collins — a Miami-area kid with worlds of talent never winds up here unless he's forged a bond with a staff or at least one of its key members. It isn't that Arkansas suffers quantifiably from Partridge and Ash leaving, per se, but it's the fear that this kind of movement causes ripples of uncertainty among 17- and 18-year-old kids who may not know fully what they want, but can figure out quickly where they want to spend three or four years plying their trade and soaking up the social scene.

This incoming class for the Hogs is, by all measures, a pretty fair one. There may not be much in the way of scene-stealing headliners, like what Collins was a year before, but you have to remember that the Hogs' absence of depth was just flat crippling in 2013. Key injuries like those suffered by cornerback Will Hines and receiver Demetrius Wilson, neither of whom were even all that proven to begin with, sheared down the talent pool in an area where it was shallow enough. Bielema's reconstructing his staff while reconstructing his roster, and that would be a bad harbinger in most circumstances, but there's an obviously less cynical view to take: Retooling is exactly what this program needs after an historically inept year, and whether some of it comes by way of defection or by disinterest, the project that Bielema has in front of him is a challenge that he doesn't seem scared of facing.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

  • Awwwwww. Big Bret Bielema shows off his little baby daughter

    August 9, 2017
    Razorback Coach Bret Bielema brought his month-old daughter Briella to his news conference this morning and cuteness ensued. /more/
  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 1

    August 3, 2017
    By the time you read this, Arkansas will have put in about a week's worth of gridiron prep for a 2017 season that has such an odd feel, what with the deflating close of 2016 a distant but still germane development and the cast of skill and special teams players looking substantially different. /more/
  • Five big questions for Arkansas football

    July 20, 2017
    Among them: Can Austin Allen get a better handle on the job and rein in his emotions? /more/
  • Summer hopes

    June 22, 2017
    Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere. /more/
  • 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/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Frank Broyles remembered

    John Franklin Broyles, officially speaking, had just shy of a half-century’s worth of public employment with the University of Arkansas (head coach from 1958 to 1976, and a 33-year tenure as athletic director that started in 1974 when he was still at the helm of the football program), but it’s abject folly to reduce his legacy to something quantitative.
    • Aug 14, 2017
  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 2

    The second leg of the 2017 Arkansas football season is no picnic, metaphorically or otherwise.
    • Aug 10, 2017
  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 1

    By the time you read this, Arkansas will have put in about a week's worth of gridiron prep for a 2017 season that has such an odd feel, what with the deflating close of 2016 a distant but still germane development and the cast of skill and special teams players looking substantially different.
    • Aug 3, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • City ethics update; campaign limit was supposed to help the little guy

    Some more history on the Little Rock city ordinance that limits candidates for mayor and City Board to raising campaign funds to five months before the November 2018 election. It raises questions not only about Warwick Sabin's fund-raising tactics, but also Mayor Mark Stodola's carryover money.

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 2

    The second leg of the 2017 Arkansas football season is no picnic, metaphorically or otherwise.
    • Aug 10, 2017
  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 1

    By the time you read this, Arkansas will have put in about a week's worth of gridiron prep for a 2017 season that has such an odd feel, what with the deflating close of 2016 a distant but still germane development and the cast of skill and special teams players looking substantially different.
    • Aug 3, 2017
  • Five big questions for Arkansas football

    Among them: Can Austin Allen get a better handle on the job and rein in his emotions?
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

August

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