Real Concern About Program's Direction

I’d like feedback from people that say Coach Bielema is building the program the right way and feel that those like myself that are skeptical of that are wrong. I’m not looking to get it in to a snarky “I’m right and you’re wrong back and forth” but a substantive exchange. I fear we’re in real trouble but would welcome being persuaded otherwise.

My concern is based off the fact that I believe by a coach’s fourth year the program is finally, truly his. From the majority of the players to the culture/identity of the team the coach owns it. He said as much in numerous media appearances this summer when he said he felt good about this season because he finally “truly knows his team.”

When he was hired I felt as the program matured we’d play clean and be very solid on both lines of scrimmage ensuring that most every week we’d be competitive with a chance to win a lot of games in the 4th quarter. If you had told me then that we’d be the worst in the league in sacks allowed and the worst defense in the country at stopping the run I would have been shocked. I probably would have told you we must have been beset my a massive amount of injuries. Of course this is not the case. Bottomline is we’re just not very good and lack physicality on both lines of scrimmage …a Bret Bielema team that’s not physical!!! It boggles the mind really.

I always felt attracting enough elite speed would be an issue - always has been - but too be so poor in the trenches when this program should be maturing is very disturbing and surprising and makes me doubt the “foundation” is solid.

For those that disagree and continue to believe firmly in Bielema I’d welcome input on why you think I’m overreacting or am just plain off base.

I honestly and truly believe the first two years of recruiting should be minimized.

Year one was a last second class that he threw together after the JLS debacle. Year two was after just a horrible season.

Those two classes severely hobble his current product. The key to success in the SEC is depth at all positions. We simply do not have the depth and have struggled with recruiting early.

After year 6, I think he will have his team built and should be 100% accountable and if he isnt, we should look to move on. If we were a school that had ever routinely recruited only 4 and 5 stars (Bama, LSU) then I would be much less forgiving and would call next year a make or break year.

With all that said…Auburn was inexcusable.

Just my double nickle.

I said this in a pm yesterday.

To me CBB is recruiting his guys. The types of guys that won him the B1G. The issue with that is we aren’t the B1G, we are the SECW. I’m not seeing the SEC type players or recruits.

I know a lot of people have said CBB has taken 24 guys from Bama/LSU (Bama/LSU offers), but at the same time, it’s well known that Bama offers 100 people a year and when a better prospect arrives they pull the scholarship. Watching the games this year, how many of those 24 would realistically play at Bama? I saw 1 (HH who actually committed to JLS). So, are we getting the players that Saban would pull scholarships from? Or are we getting legitimate Bama offered guys?

I believe what CBB is trying to do is our only shot at competing in the SEC West. We have serious recruiting disadvantages compared to the majority of the other SEC teams that no coach at Arkansas has been able to consistently combat. CBB’s plan seems to be similar to what you see in NCAA Basketball regarding small schools being able to compete with the dominant programs: recruit players that fit your system, and put Juniors & Seniors (and 5th year seniors) out there that can compete with their ubertalented underclassmen. Then play a style of football that gives you a chance against any opponent (ball control offense). Until the state of Arkansas catches up to the South in producing High School football talent (which won’t likely ever happen), I see no other way of changing our fortune. There’s not a coach out there short of Nick Saban who could change our recruiting landscape in my opinion.

That said, CBB isn’t there yet. His O-line this year has 2 underclassmen and a 1st year starter JUCO, and he’s missed on some DBs and LBs in the past that is exacerbating our issues on defense. Even so, we’ve beat several teams the last two seasons that had more talent than us by sticking to CBB’s plan. Tennesssee, Ole Miss, LSU, Auburn in '15 all had/have better talent than us yet our play style put us in a position to win those games. We’ve improved our record in every year of his tenure so far (verdict is obviously still out on this season), and his recruiting classes are improving as well. We just have to continue building depth with good quality upperclassmen at key positions.

All told, I’m happy with the coach and I believe in what he’s trying to build. We just have to stay the course. Its interesting to imagine what this team would look like if we didn’t lose some Juniors from last year to the NFL (imagine Kirkland, Collins, & Henry on this years team). Those early recruiting wins by CBB helped us improve every year, but their loss also makes this year a bit more difficult. I’m disappointed like everybody else in the Auburn game, but that mean trash the formula and start all over.

Can’t count those guys Lance, that was part of the two lost years in recruiting and the reason we are having troubles this year. Haven’t you read the board the last few days?

Come on Baked, can you honestly say that those years had no impact? Sure, we got a few players, however we didn’t get a good, consistent group.

Gentry I get your point about the 2013 and 2014 classes and there were plenty of misses, but lots of production in that 13 class.

Of concern is the 2015 class - take another look at that and I think you’ll be concerned about overall quality there as well.

You believe wrong. This is the season when the lack of recruiting productivity from 2012-13 hit the hardest.

How am I wrong? Are the majority of the players on the roster BB’s recruits? How about the starters?

“Majority” does not matter. If a coach is trying to build a program that redshirts young talent and develops players over several years, you’re not even rolling until you have a couple of full recruiting classes progress from frosh to redshirt finally to having a slew of fourth-year juniors, fifth-year seniors.

Arkansas had hardly any redshirts in 2013 and not enough in '14. The 2015 class was the first one that managed to redshirt a good number of players, and we’ve got a lot of freshmen entering the redshirt cycle this season. See what I’m talking about?

The offensive line is the part of the team hit hardest by the lack of recruiting and developmental pipeline from 2012-13. The team has a grand total of one player from those classes today. Even the 2014 recruiting class didn’t produce enough redshirts. You could say that Bielema should have compensated by recruiting blue-chip studs to fill in, but since when was that ever Arkansas’s MO?

This was never going to be “the season.” I’ve been warning you about the Oline ever since March, and not because I have any kind of special knowledge. Serious problems were predestined. This team managed to win five games anyway. They did it with smoke and mirrors, man. Not because the talent pipeline is anywhere close to optimized.

2012: 5 pro, 8 5th year SR (7 play significant minutes), 4 graduate (17 of 25, 5 of 8 transferred, 3 left in 2012/2013 not listed as transfers)
2013: 7 pro, 11 - 2016 active roster (7 played significant minutes, 1 injured), 4 graduate (22 of 25, 3 transferred CBB encouraged)

So, the two “lost years” have produced 12 pro’s, 19 players on current roster (14 with significant playing time), and 8 graduates that FB career ended here with a degree, yep let’s blame it on them. Because 39 out of 50 players (and I’m not counting two walkons that got minutes this year), just isn’t good enough.

FWIW: I’ve been looking at this Oline deficiency of ours and wondering why CBB doesn’t have this dominant offensive line we are accustomed to his teams having. Bielema has even stated “We probably should have taken more interior offensive linemen.” Let’s take a look at that. When you take the type of recruits that we are able to sign here at Arkansas, they must be developed and are generally at their best in years 4 & 5, which means redshirting and developing in great numbers. Below is the breakdown of Offensive lineman on the roster:

Freshman - 3
Redshirt Freshman - 3
Sophomores - 6
Junior - from JC - 2
Junior - transfer - 1
Junior - 1
Senior - 1

That means we have two upperclassmen that have been in Bielema’s system that are here and playing. We may be in the same boat again next year. In two years those Sophomores are Seniors and the Freshman are Juniors making 12 upperclassmen as offensive linemen who have been in Bielema/Enos(hopefully he’s still here) system.

The key is that we must continue to recruit and develop in great numbers each year. Tom Osborne used to do this at Nebraska - Danny Ford did this at Clemson and was doing it at Arkansas (HDN got to reap the benefits of Danny Ford’s hard work there). So, has Bielema made a great error in not recruiting more offensive linemen? YES, and he admitted as much. I believe he has learned his lesson there. Let’s hope that we still recruit more solidly on the defensive side of things, as well. But, this post is already too long so we’ll save that for another post…

I agree he did make a BIG mistake by not recruiting more interior lineman. I’m just very surprised and disappointed he made it given that:

  1. He has stated over and over he builds from the inside out - meaning on the lines of scrimmage. Given this is the case you don’t recruit sufficient numbers of linemen? Head scratcher

  2. This is a mistake I’d expect from an inexperienced, up and coming coach and not a seasoned Power 5 head coach.

I think the numbers are good its just the misses that hurt them. U have some that are 4* that everyone wanted but we got that were just not good enough for what ever reason,

I’m not sure it was the “misses” in those classes. In the 2012, 2013, & 2014 classes there were 10. 2012 (I believe Boyd played, but not a lot). 2013 Koehler was actually practicing with the 2nd team his freshmen year and broke his kneecap (I bring this up, because when he was with the 2nd team, Skipper and Kirkland were running with the third) so out of 4 plus a walk-on, two played, one injured, 1 transferred. 2014 4 guys recruited 1 was a dud, the other three was Wallace, Ragnow, and Tretola, so he hit 3/4 that year. Problem is, the 2012 class would be gone this year, the 2013 class had a stud that declared and another that stayed, but will leave this year. 2014 had one JUCO stud, and another stud that may leave his JR year. CBB should have been ready, he knew what he had (studs and duds) and he knew people could leave. He didn’t get anyone to take their spots, so the REAL PROBLEM is the 2015/2016 classes. Not those that came before. He should have had them ready to play.

Like everyone, I’m concerned about our play in the trenches on O and D. Coach B admits his lack of recruits on O, but I’m still scratching my head over how the Dline is so lackluster. Back to the subject at hand, I’m certainly concerned about the program’s direction. We have always seemed to be a program that is more adversely affected by players leaving early and by injuries, which relates to depth and back to recruiting. Having said that, I can only conclude we have to continue to be patient, and hope this coach continues to work hard and build the program through better recruiting and better coaching with what we have. I am at a total loss about what happened at AU. We face two very good D’s the next two games. Those two games will answer a lot of questions for me about where we really are. We have finished strong the last two years, which led to most of us feeling very good about the next year. Will we do that again? If not, I am very concerned about the future and who wouldn’t be?

You didn’t get the point at all. You’re praising talent that isn’t on this football team any longer. You should have fourth-year juniors and fifth-year seniors who were recruited in 2012-13. Get it?

I got the point, there are 14 players from that class that are playing significant minutes. Between offense and defense there are 22 players. 14 is from those two years. We have the players you’re complaining about. Of the 12 pro’s only 4 left early, the rest graduated. That was your point correct? Guys were leaving early and not developing? The facts seem to disprove that. That’s 22 of 26 players that stayed until there eligibility was exhausted. It isn’t a “leave early” issue. It’s a Bret didn’t plan for those guys exhausting their eligibility issue.

Edit: there were players that were kicked off the team. There are players that quit. Most of those guys weren’t playing.

Thanks for the research… it’s very telling.

I told my SEC friends that this was a rebuilding year. The manner in which we beat TCU made everyone(including me)forget how thin & young we are. However, we were totally unprepared & outcoached at Albarn…& no, I’m not a Gus fan.