Posted: 12:11 am Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Arkansas increases manpower to recruit Georgia 

By Michael Carvell

How long does a new coach need his own type of football players in the system before being able to have success?

Bret Bielema is faced with that dilemma at Arkansas after replacing Bobby Petrino and John L. Smith before last season. Bielema ripped apart the playbook and installed new schemes on offense and defense.

Unlike Auburn, Arkansas was not an overnight success with its first-year coach. Bielema won three straight games to open last season, but closed with nine consecutive losses. The coach candidly reflected on the situation in an interview with the AJC.

“I think a lot of it depends on what‘s there,” Bielema said. “I don’t think there’s a magic number.

“Obviously, this is my first transition as a head coach. It’s something I wanted to do free willingly. I wanted to do it. I wanted to experience it. But I knew coming in, what I was going to ask our players was dramatically different from what they were used to.

“If you get a team with a new coach coming in that was very similar to what they’ve done in the past, you could have an Auburn situation. You know, Gus (Malzahn) was part of three out of those five recruiting classes (at Auburn as an assistant and head coach). Know what I mean? There were huge transitional benefits there.

“But if I had transferred into a Stanford or a program that had a pro-type offense background and the type of defense we like to run, the transition probably would’ve been a little bit smoother – not just from a record standpoint, but from a personnel standpoint. I think that’s the part, you as coaches, have to be aware of.

Arkansas will increase from 1 to 3 assistants on the recruiting trail in Georgia (AP)

Arkansas will increase from 1 to 3 assistants on the recruiting trail in Georgia (AP)

“I’m excited about this year’s recruiting class because unlike a year ago when we had a recruiting class ranked a little higher, this year’s recruiting class was catered to the needs we knew and projected as coaches. Case in point, we had four guys that we went after hard and were able to get them into school in January. All four are now in our two-deep and going to play effective football for us in the SEC. Even though maybe they didn’t have all the stars that everybody wanted next to them, they’re the stars that we wanted.

“One of the great things I really believe in as a head coach is that nobody knows your program better than you. I’ve had a lot of no-stars come in and be Freshman of the Year in the conference, and Big Ten Player of the Year (award) for a guy that never had star. That was Chris Borland, who has the chance to be a first-round NFL draft pick. He came in and took the conference by storm, and we were the only school in the country that offered him. That’s the stuff I love doing as a head coach, taking players that fit your program and make them have success.”

Arkansas, which signed two players out of Atlanta last February, is stepping up its recruiting efforts in the state. This year, Arkansas will increase the number of assistants in Georgia from one to three.

“Why can’t we have recruiting success in Georgia?” Bielema said. “We have direct flights to Atlanta. In addition, we have alumni base that is very, very proud, and very, very excited to help the Hogs in any way.

“I think the biggest thing we have going for us at Arkansas is that we’re a program on the rise. We’re a program that can talk about what you can do to help build, instead of just being another part of the past (elsewhere). Here at Arkansas, you can be part of the identity that helps change the course of history. ‘Come and be a part of the Hogs.’”

Here’s the rest of the Q&A with Brett Bielema:

You’re spending part of spring practice preparing for your season-opener against Auburn? “As a point of reference, we’ve always done things like that during the spring. And it’s not so much Auburn, it’s just what Auburn does offensively is so different than what we do. It’s more of the quarterback-run game, what that means, how that plays into it, and the fact that Auburn is our opener. The things that we’re working on are more dedicated to the no-huddle offense, and the quarterback-run game.”

Alabama's Nick Saban loses very few recruits (AP)

Alabama’s Nick Saban and Bielema are not fans of fast-paced offenses (AP)

How much can you really do to prepare for Auburn this early? “Our offense is a quarterback under center and two-back run game. It’s some traditional pro-style offense. When our defense is getting ready to play Auburn, Texas Tech and Northern Illinois – games we play early in the season next year – it’s a completely different offense. So in my previous years as a head coach, I’ve learned that if you don’t allow your defense to get reps against an offense that they’re going to see almost 75-percent of the season, you are doing disservice to your whole team.”

What do you think about public perception that you and Alabama coach Nick Saban are secret allies against the hurry-up no-huddle offenses? “I think that opinion is from the outside only. But I appreciate what you’re saying and obviously Nick has some philosophy things that join with what we believe in here at Arkansas. Obviously, his success is second to none and what he believes in, he believes in strongly. I really do think that the only thing I regret about that whole conversation and things that were said … the only thing at the top of my priority list in player safety. Nothing will ever derail from that. Nothing will ever take me away from that. It’s something I believe in strongly. Our one solid and unwavering commitment to parents when we recruit young men is that we will look out for the safety and well-being of their child, no matter what. And I think that’s something that can never be lost in in translation.”

So about that perception of you and Saban being secret allies? “I have never had any secret meetings with Nick. We talk on the phone occasionally but nothing secretive or ways to manipulate the system or anything.”

Why are you increasing your emphasis on recruiting Georgia? “One of the things that jumped out at me right away last year was that I did a comparative study. And for signing day for (2013), the state that produced the most SEC signings, not Division I, was Georgia. That’s Atlanta, and that jumped out to me. If you look at Division I signees across the country, the top states are traditionally Florida, California, Texas, and Ohio. But when you’re talking about the SEC, the state of Georgia was the No. 1 producer.”

What’s your game plan on recruiting Georgia? What’s your philosophy on talent evaluation? “I believe no way, shape or form in recruiting services, other than they can usually give you the name and the high schools and where to find them (the recruits). We don’t follow their rankings. We don’t follow their thoughts on what type of player they are. What we do is follow through on our own services, on our own rating system. It has been very, very good. This past year, we got (Lassiter High School defensive back) Chris Murphy. He ended up having a lot of offers, but there wasn’t a lot of interest when we got on him early on. (South Paulding High School defensive back) Khalia Hackett was along the same lines. We really believed strongly that they would fit into our system. They like football, they’re good athletes, they want to be able to run, and they can take care of their academic business – and usually things like that are great indicators of what kind of football player you’re getting your hands on.”

You play UGA this season in Little Rock. Arkansas. How do you think that will impact your recruiting efforts in Georgia? “We’re excited. Any time you recruit a kid out of Georgia, and you can tell them ‘Hey, you get a chance to play Georgia,’ it’s good. I think we’re playing them in Little Rock this year. I think that’s a tremendous environment to get to play them in. It’s a big deal for them and for us. It’s something that is a little bit of a new niche in history, and anytime you can do that, I think it creates something very special.”

Do you wish the NCAA allowed you and other head coaches to recruit on the road during the spring evaluation period? “I do. It’s something that I’ve enjoyed since day one. I remember to this day, the very time I was on the road recruiting and how much I enjoyed it. When I was first was a head coach, we could still do it. I was on the road for a whole month. I thoroughly enjoyed it because you could make a difference. You could go into those high schools and visit with the high school coach and the principal. You can’t talk to the kid, so it doesn’t really matter. But you could make a difference with selling your program to the community. And there was movement from a lot of head coaches maybe in the twilight of their career who just didn’t have the desire to get out on the road. They got the rule switched and we haven’t been able to get back out since. I really wish we could because I would think for me, especially here at Arkansas, I could make a difference in being out there and shaking hands. But we’ve just got to play by the rules that we’ve been given.”

If you were in charge of the NCAA, what’s one rule you would change for recruiting? “There’s one, without a doubt. The in-state recruiting is a different deal. When we recruit kids from Arkansas, we get can those kids on campus, even though it might be a four- or five-hour drive. We can usually get them here. But when you’re dealing with out-of-state kids, it’s a little different. We’ve been strong in Florida, and we’ve been strong in some areas that require a plane flight … but when you fly the kids, you can’t fly the parents. I would suggest, and I’ve put in motion now for about four or five years in a row now, the ability to bring in a parent on an official visit by plane. I don’t know if we get to bring in both parents but just the ability to bring in one would work. I think you will make the recruiting process a more efficient one, and make it more informed. I think a lot of times when a young man is on campus by himself and without parental guidance, some bad things can happen such as misinformation and misleading. I think would be a great asset for everyone involved. It just makes so make sense. I’ve been a recruiter in South Florida my entire career, even as an assistant. There are so many times a young man visits and sees something he knows and believes is right but his parents can’t afford to see it with him. To see that parent’s anxiety is something we could erase with just a simple little rule. I think in the long run it would end up saving money (for both colleges and recruits) because the kids wouldn’t make bad decisions. They wouldn’t make decisions for schools they’ve got to transfer out of in a couple of years. Overall, it would help everybody in the decision-making process.”

Some people are saying Arkansas might have the nation’s toughest schedule this season? “I’m excited and our guys are excited. We couldn’t be more excited about opening up the season in an environment like Auburn. We played a good game against them a year ago and fell short. I think the fact we saw them go on to win an SEC championship and play for a national championship, we realized how good a football team they were. And to have that opportunity to have that first game in our hands, it’s really special. I think the great thing about our guys is that they know 3-9 is not an ending point. It’s a launching point. To have the opportunity to come back the next year and have the schedule we have, it’s certainly a blessing in disguise.”

73 comments
MikeBanning
MikeBanning

re:

“Why can’t we have recruiting success in Georgia?” Bielema said. “We have direct flights to Atlanta. In addition, we have alumni base that is very, very proud, and very, very excited to help the Hogs in any way.

==================================

Translation:

We can cheat with the best of em' in the SEC, so you recruits in Ga. have nothing to fear by going to good ol' Arky!

LEE3333
LEE3333

Someone should have asked Bret.....When you travel to Auburn for the first game of the season, will you be flying into Atlanta or Birmingham? After all, Atlanta is a little closer to campus.

Remarkable3
Remarkable3

"I’ve had a lot of no-stars come in and be Freshman of the Year in the conference, and Big Ten Player of the Year (award) for a guy that never had star." Bret Bielema


Most of Georgia's high school football players could be freshman of the year in the Big 10 and Big 10 Player of the Year. You're playing with the Bib Boys in the SEC now!

EricJoiner
EricJoiner

Bert is gonna get his arse kicked by Auburn.   

POAD2014
POAD2014

It has to be easier recruiting at ArkieSaw over Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a AAU member and doesn't allow as many special admits. Plenty of Georgia kids should be able to easily get in any SEC school. He should steal away some players every year.

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

Georgia has around 200 High School Players every year that are good enough to play at an FBS School. UGA can sign around 24 a year depending on the year before's  class. That leaves around 180 players that have to find other Schools . Every School within two or even three State of Georgia should be Recruiting in the State of Georgia. I just think the kids around Atlanta are to citified to go to Arkansas who has a pig as it's mascot. 

FireSomebody
FireSomebody

"We have direct flights to Atlanta."   LMAO.  Well, coach, now that you put it like that, maybe you're on to something...

rickfire
rickfire

What is Georgia doing to counter ther schools that are making recruiting in OUR state a priority?

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

"I’ve had a lot of no-stars come in and be Freshman of the Year in the conference, and Big Ten Player of the Year (award) for a guy that never had star"

The best player he ever had was a transfer student he took from NCSU

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

MC has an interview with Bielema and doesn't ask a really key question - "Are you and your wife going to use social media this year as well as you used it last year?"

CEPH
CEPH

Did any of you guys read the article in MRSEC about Saban and his recruiting ability?  Mc Garity should make it required reading for Richt . Basically he works at harder than other coaches, I personally think Richt would rather lie on the couch with the water girl .  You will NEVER see anyone write an article even close to that one about Richt.  He just doesn't have what it takes to head a major program like UGA he should be at Mars Hill so that he could also teach a Bible study class.

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

Too big of a cultural difference for him to have much success in Georgia. He needs to put all his effort into the State of Arkansas and Texas.

POAD2014
POAD2014

@DawgGoneIt  your mom's lover. Since you like making that kind of comment there is one for you.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

He will know when he gets close to the cow college for the smell tells you just that.

POAD2014
POAD2014

@Remarkable3  Bib Boys in the SEC? That sounds right. They have to wear a BIB to keep from drooling all over their clothes...LOL

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

@KeepOnSmilingWetWillie  Respectively disagree. 

He is not much at recruiting and that offense he runs is outdated.

He could get  away with that conservative type offense up in the Big Ten,

but it want wash down here. He is kind of a blow hard too,  that can't back it up. 

It is a tough sell to get great players to go to Arkansas.. That is why he is targeting Atlanta.

POAD2014
POAD2014

@C-Kirk  That isn't a PIG it is a RAZORBACK that is a little different than a Domesticated Pig.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@C-Kirk What's the matter with pigs? We raised hogs when i was a sprout, great times.
 

Armydawg
Armydawg

@FireSomebody  Greyhound Airlines has been the way to get between Arkansas and anywhere.

Snagglepuss
Snagglepuss

@rickfire


I don't know about all of Dawg Nation  but CMR  is probably counting his millions.


Go  Dawgs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

@rickfire  That is funny. I can guarantee Brother hasn't given it a lot of thought.

He not that quick and is lazy. 

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@rickfire Maybe snipers at the state lines? Maybe just find a way to be the hottest team in the SEC, that's what Gus did.

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

@PaulinNH  Yea, but you are missing his point. 

"I am a boastful, braggart from the Big 10 so why wouldn't you want to play for me". 



Snagglepuss
Snagglepuss

@CEPH


Another I D I O T   statement from someone who doesn't know  B I G W O O D   from  B R U S H!

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@C-Kirk

The 2 SEC West HCs from Ohio don't seem to be having problems recruiting in GA

JustinFreeman
JustinFreeman

@WhiskeyBreath @KeepOnSmilingWetWillie  So you don't think a college that currently has 6 RBs in the NFL will be able to run the ball? Before Petrino, Arkansas could run the ball as well as anyone in the country. They were tied for the most players on the freshman all-SEC team last year. Bielema needs a lot more time to clean up Petrino's mess of a roster.


The SEC freshman of the year has been their 3rd team RB this spring...it's the passing game that will make or break them IMO. They still won't be great this year but he is building a good foundation

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

The Hogs will never have a topt 10 years but they've never been in the top 10 even with Bobby running his motorcycle I mean show. 3*'s and some 4*'s and if you can play tuff defense and run the ball then you have a chance. I am sticking by my comments that both 10RC and the Hogs will be pretty good in 2015 and I am glad we have them both In T-town.

Nick made the comments at a REC meeting that the teams around the league have closed the talent gap with Bama and he doesn't spend time trying to fool folks when he speaks.

Snagglepuss
Snagglepuss

@WhiskeyBreath @rickfire


That wilda$$ statement from Bammy related tree-killer and fans that shoot each other if things don't go well for Bammy11111111111

Snagglepuss
Snagglepuss

@PaulinNH @C-Kirk


And that is the way it should be!!  It is perfectly legal and it  gives Sports writers and  T R O L L S  a lifeline to having a  L I F E !!!!!!!!!!!

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

@PaulinNH @C-Kirk  

Then you get into proximity Alabama is a lot closer to Georgia than Arkansas which is  3 States away. Auburn is nearly a border town to Georgia. Plus Auburn has a strong hold in Southwest Georgia because UGA ignored Recruiting that Region for so long. Tuscaloosa is right down the Interstate from Atlanta.   

POAD2014
POAD2014

@DawgGoneIt I could be confusing you with 350. Sorry if I was wrong....Go Braves beat the FISH.

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

@POAD2014  My insults at you are mostly football related...until you wanted to go there. So I went there too. Go ahead, quote me. I've never said anything of that nature until now.

POAD2014
POAD2014

@DawgGoneIt You post crap like that all the time.

If he were in serious pain, living was bad like it was for mom 1 1/2 years ago when she died then I would be happy if dad didn't make it out of the hospital either. I would rather him pass and be with mom and signing the the Choir in Heaven. Truth is he is doing pretty well with his infusions and about to start more Chemo. Maybe you are right. Hope he HAUNTS you then and GOD gives you ED...LOL

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@Snagglepuss Snaggle that cut deep, but i don't blame ya. Sometimes the truth hurts. Exit stage left!!!!!

POAD2014
POAD2014

@LEE3333 not really. Wild animals taste very different than control fed farm raised animals.