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Andy Hodges

Bielema may stick with status quo, which likely will have similar results

Bret Bielema says after loss to Missouri he’s not planning on making any changes with assistants, but the odds are there will be changes.



After watching his team fall on it’s face in the second half against Missouri, some asked Arkansas’ Bret Bielema if he was planning any staff changes.

Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was close enough to get it all:

Bielema specifically was asked by a reporter whether he would be evaluate his staff during the Razorbacks’ bowl preparations.

“Evaluating our staff?” Bielema said. “You mean am I going to make changes?”

Yes, the reporter replied.

“No,” Bielema said.

But do you start the evaluation process?

“Well, you always do a season review obviously before the bowl game,” Bielema said. “And obviously after the final game, which will be our bowl game, you always take self-inventory as a head coach. You always make evaluations and make decisions. You sit down and talk to your coaches.

“I can’t predict what’s going to happen in the world of college football, but I know what we’re going to do.”

Another reporter asked Bielema whether he’ll make staff changes after the bowl game?

“I don’t plan on making changes,” Bielema said.

While you wouldn’t expect a coach to announce the changes right after a game, if he gave himself a lot of wiggle room you really can’t complain.

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A flat-out rejection of the idea was a little surprising.

Considering Bielema doesn’t make changes, there’s really only a few reasons why:

He doesn’t see a problem that’s due to coaching. In other words, it’s a shortfall of talent. The problem with that is there is absolutely no ground being gained on the rest of the SEC West. In fact, according to the composite rankings, in the top five in this recruiting cycle, four are from the SEC West. The Razorbacks currently rank 10th in the league and sixth in the West, ahead of the only school bogged down in a never-ending NCAA investigation.

• Bielema is loyal to his assistants. That has been the downfall of more than one coach for the Hogs. A head coach is only as good as his assistants because, quite frankly, they do most of the work.

• He’s convinced himself the program is still moving upward. We covered this in another story, but the cold, hard truth is they are not. This year saw Bielema’s program go backwards in the SEC.

• Bielema just flat-out didn’t want to talk about it. This one might be closer to the truth. No coach is going to throw his staff under the bus immediately after a loss. In many ways it’s not fair to ask it then, but it is a question that is going to be asked.

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He doesn’t grasp the situation. If he thinks the cupboard was bare when he came in, most felt Bobby Petrino inherited worse back in 2008. That’s a subject that can be debated for about a week or so.

Bielema has got to do some things to get the football program jump-started, according to people far more familiar with how to do these things than me:

• Recruiting has to improve. Not by just a little bit here and there. Four of your division opponents are in the first 11 right now while the Hogs’ current commitments rank 24th. You’ve got to make a leap and get a whole lot faster in a hurry.

The inevitable result is you aren’t going to make up any ground. The only way to close a gap that large is by getting some highly-rated junior college players.

• Change your approach. With Ed Orgeron being hired at LSU and saying you have to have a spread offense with dual-threat quarterbacks, that should get your attention. He was a pro-style, run-first coach and in the past vowed to never change.

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While Arkansas’ current style may be unique, that doesn’t matter if the other side is signing bushels of fast defenders who run around your slow, clumsy offensive linemen.

Bielema may think sticking to what he’s done the last four years is the way to go. That’s certainly his decision and worked for him, as we’ve been told, in the Big 10.

Only thing is that’s like comparing winning wagon races with Clydesdales and applying the same thought process to running with thoroughbreds in the SEC.

And, in case you weren’t aware, no Clydesdale has ever won the Kentucky Derby.

Oh, and the only Big 10 team to win a national title since 2002 was Ohio State in 2014. With a spread offense and the speed to compete with an SEC team.

No, Bret may not replace any assistants.

But the guess here is some will get job offers to go elsewhere. With a strong recommendation from Bielema.

Of course. Problem solved.



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