LITTLE ROCK — Thanks in part to success in Madison, Wis., and failure in Knoxville, Tenn., Bret Bielema’s staff is coming along nicely at Arkansas.
Chris Ash and Charlie Partridge were part of three straight Rose Bowl teams at Wisconsin; Jim Chaney and Sam Pittman unhooked the tether to Derek Dooley, 4-20 in the Southeastern Conference in three years, when Dooley was canned at Tennessee.
Ash and Partridge worked together on defense; Chaney and Pittman collaborated on offense.
That, alone, guarantees the coordinator and one of his coaches will be on the same page while going about practice and game planning, a workplace circumstance that benefits all involved. Also a plus, Pittman and Chaney coaching against Alabama means they will not be surprised about what sort of athletes it takes to stay on the line of scrimmage with the Crimson Tide.
Ash’s hiring does come with an asterisk since he might apply to succeed Bielema at Wisconsin.
Each of the coach’s profiles from Arkansas cite various accomplishments of that coach’s particular group of players. The numbers are impressive, but something else caught my eye:
—Ash, recruiting coordinator at Iowa State on two occasions and once at San Diego State.
—Partridge, identified previously by a Florida newspaper as maybe the Big Ten’s best recruiter in South Florida.
—Pittman, named a top 25 recruiter by ESPN.com.
—Chaney, recruiting coordinator at Cal State-Fullerton, Wyoming, and Purdue.
Four coaches, four recruiters. And, there is more along that line.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Sunday that Thomas Hammock, who coaches running backs at Wisconsin, has an offer from Bielema. On Wisconsin’s website, Hammock’s duties are listed as assistant head coach/RBs/recruiting coordinator.
Recruiting is at the heart of winning football, particularly in the Southeastern Conference, and Bielema is clearly on board with that truth.
Online, there is video available on pass rushing techniques — such tags as bull rush, swim, rip/inside, counter/club, and grab — and blocking techniques for both run and pass. Coaches teach similar techniques; the pupils make the difference.
Bielema has more coaches to hire, but a dead period for contacting recruits began Monday and continues until Jan. 3, so there is not quite the urgency there was prior to the end of the contact period. It’s also likely that some of the coaches he wants to hire are participating in bowl games.
Meanwhile, Bielema is very much involved in recruiting. Last week, he flew to California to see a linebacker who verbally committed to Arkansas in August. Myke Tavarres is one of several Razorback commitments who have received a visit from the head coach.
Bielema also called a Florida quarterback to tell him that the Razorbacks were only going to sign one quarterback and that would be Austin Allen of Fayetteville.
That alone says something about the point of emphasis under the new regime. Bobby Petrino collected quarterbacks and wide receivers; Bielema prefers linemen.
Bielema’s phone call may seem cold to some, but I suspect Urban Meyer made similar phoners when he arrived at Ohio State in late November 2011 and that other new coaches have initiated contact with athletes who committed to the previous coach. I’d much rather Bielema be up front with the young man in December than string him along for another month or so.
When he was introduced as Arkansas’ coach, Bielema’s news conference was so extensive that a review of the transcript yielded some unused nuggets. He called Texas a “very fertile area” for recruiting “and you’ll have your battles, but we’ll have to have that area covered well.” Reading between the lines, that indicates the hire of an assistant with Texas ties.
He also said that during his career, he had signed more than 50 players from Florida. Three per year from Florida, a half-dozen from Texas, and 6-8 from Arkansas would be a solid base.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.