I was so impressed with the writing, analysis, thought process and overall depth of his post that I am boldly taking it upon myself to give it it’s own life.
He has obviously given this a lot of thought rather than a knee jerk reaction based on some emotional bias.
I would love to see more of this kind of post.
Again I apologize if this is not PC, but I think all Hog fans should read this and at least give the points some thought.
First, no one is guaranteed to win at a new school. CBB’s pedigree suggests he should have been famously successful by now.
It seems obvious (now, anyway, but not earlier) that he depended heavily on the oversight provided by Alvarez, the same oversight that likely helped nudge him out the door at Wisconsin. UA fans understand the value, and complications, of having an “involved” AD with a football program.
CBB came to UA with a seemingly cohesive staff. Now, no one is left except Lunney (is that correct?) and Lunney does not count as a CBB guy, instead being the holdover who has proven himself rather valuable. The newer staffs seem to have grown away from cohesion, rather than building upon it.
CBB came to UA with a template of an “already working” program vs the template to build a program almost from the ground up. The template was built for Wisconsin and the B1G, not Arkansas and the SEC. However, it is reasonable to see how Wisconsin and Arkansas would seem similar.
We have had a couple of different defensive reboots, one with the arrival of Robb Smith and another with his departure. We shifted offenses with Enos’ arrival. The staff, like Petrino’s before, never seems to “be right” and turnover has become a given. It will happen again this year, and it is not just about a coach looking to improve their situation (a good reason to lose a coach).
Like Nutt did earlier at UA, there was an attempt at recruiting Florida. Nutt left Texas, went to Florida, abandoned Florida, tried Texas, left again, wondered about Louisiana but quit trying to go against Saban and then Miles, then reluctantly tried to attack Texas again. I may have some of that wrong, but the spirit of the previous sentence stands - Nutt flipflopped a lot on recruiting and our presence in Texas suffered. CBB, too, struggled in Texas but seems to have made some decent headway.
As a recruiter, if stars and the national gurus are at all accurate (an argument for a different day) then CBB is the best recruiter to UA of the SEC era (hard for me to compare to Danny Ford at this point). At some point, the philosophy of recruitment shifted. Actually, a couple of times.
First, the awareness of territory and the access we might have that changed when the coaching staff changed. Second, the awareness that SEC recruiting is much more cutthroat than B1G recruiting. Third, the reality of Texas-based cheating had to be a factor. Even OU and OSU backed off of their heavy Texas focus when Baylor, TCU, Houston, A&M, and even Texas started playing dirtier than before. That was a learning moment, I’m sure. Then, we begin addressing team weaknesses that were not being addressed by coaching. RB ball security saw two coaching changes in two years. We almost lost Micheal Smith until he was able to hammer away at route accuracy, dependable hands, and physicality by the WRs (boy howdy, is that not an issue again today?). The need for speed began kicking in and is still in “uptick” mode. The team speed is better, but needs more improvement.
If we believe the press conference sound bytes there has been some shift in weight management and strength training, but some will maintain that our players get slower, not faster.
There was a moment (I think we are still there) where CBB felt that the staff could extract that extra “little bit” by recruiting smarter players, that intellect could somehow overcome some raw talent differential. I think there is merit there but we are lacking proof that it has been successful.
My point on recruiting is that we have evolved so much, and so continually, that it is like we are still like a “new program” not a veteran coach with a veteran team. The continual evolution of the staff seems to contribute to a lack of continuity with development of talent and scheme.
CBB seems to be more snakebit with injuries than most: the AJ Derby saga at QB, Jonathan Williams, K-Rich and Greenlaw last year, and the string of losses to the current roster (beginning with RW3 last spring).
A friend says it is simple - CBB has found the level of competition that he can’t succeed against, but the B1G was winnable. If so, this is a factor for any new coach. We can say the same thing about Butch Jones, maybe about Mark Stoops, and (I am projecting here, eventually) Wil Muschamps and Ed Orgeron. Darn few elite coaches and not all of them want to coach in the SEC, or tackle the recruiting/population challenges.
I maintain we are rather close to elite: SEC-qualty offensive tackles, nose guard (I think Capps gets there, but I doubt the others and with one being a senior…), and safeties would be amazing. Getting the SEC athleticism at linebacker and tight end to round into form would help. CBB seems to have a system that demands all pieces mesh before the machinery works very well. When it works, it works well. We’ve seen that. None of the gears are meshing particularly well these days, and we are not seeing signs of immediate growth although it is fair to note that losing (even big) to Bama and Auburn while losing competitive games to A&M and TCU is not necessarily a condemnable offense.
“But it’s year five.”
Says the fanbase that endured Nutt’s “two-year pass.”
“Smile,” said to the same fanbase by the poser who funded a bankruptcy defense by having a copy of the key to the head coach’s office.
There is too little realization for too many fans about Petrino - he was (still is) a self-destructive football savant. Wickedly brilliant but unable to sustain his program wherever he goes. He was shown the door before the program imploded, probably with him slipping out the side door in the dark of night.
Nope, we get to own this one. We get to embrace that we scored a coup in the coaching community, hired a great man, a fine role model, a believer in the role of athletics in building and supporting the bigger purpose of higher education, and generally a guy I’d like to throw back a beer with while watching sports on the big screen.
We get to embrace that he did everything you are supposed to do - adapt, grow, modify, own weaknesses, and establish an image/vision for your program - despite it not working like we want it to.
We get to embrace that this could easily end U-G-L-Y, that our AD sees a bigger vision for the program than the majority of fans are capable of seeing, and that while others recklessly “end” a coaching career prior to the logical “end” of a season we are very unlikely to do that.
We get to embrace a coach who will have tear-filled eyes the Friday after Thanksgiving as he welcomes to the field for the last time players who became men while under his mentorship. Frank Ragnow will hobble to Coach on crutches, bear hug each other, and acknowledge the roar of an approving crowd. The final time for an Allen to take the field as quarterback will be a mixed bag - cheers and standing applause during pre-game, possibly some boos if it is in the game that doesn’t go well. Kevin Richardson. Bijhon Jackson. Dewayne Eugene. Henre’ Tolliver. It won’t be the largest group of graduates but they belong to our coach. He will own their time at UA just like we have to own his time at UA.
It will take something miraculous to shift things for Bielema, buying him another year without rancor and outrage in the fanbase. OK, he might have to win out to avoid most of that, and there is nothing that will save him from at least a modest amount of disgruntled fans. Tackling is only modestly better, and typically from those who are new members of the defensive rotation. Safeties and linebackers are still out-of-position too often. Offensive linemen are still whiffing on blocks. Receivers are still running lazy routes, unable to squeeze a reception during jarring contact, or be particularly savvy blockers.
Those things won’t be fixed in a single week. Or two, or three. Maybe some younger players sneak into the rotation and show promise, push veterans, and help turn the narrative.
I will cheer for the man, writing him a letter of thanks at some point, but must admit that I can’t see a way out of this for Bielema and his staff.