First it was Jon Gruden, then it was Chris Petersen and then it was Mike Gundy. While none of those head coaches jumped at the chance to coach the Arkansas Razorbacks, athletic director Jeff Long still managed to hit a home run with his successor to the John L. Smith error.
It is a home run hire for the Razorbacks.
Bielema is 68-24 in Madison after taking over for Barry Alvarez prior to the 2006 season. He is a defensive-minded head coach who has led the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowls, losing the 2011 game to TCU and the 2012 edition to Oregon.
He coached the Badgers to a shocking 70-31 thrashing of then-No. 12 Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game last weekend. Two seasons ago, his running back Montee Ball put together one of the most prolific seasons any running back has ever posted, rushing 307 times for 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns, en route to becoming a Heisman finalist.
He is a no-nonsense head coach that isn't afraid to speak his mind and be bold, when warranted.
When rising senior Russell Wilson left N.C. State and became a free-agent quarterback, Bielema lured him to Madison and it resulted in a Big Ten title. He did the same thing with former Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien last offseason. While the O'Brien experiment didn't work out the way he had planned, his aggressiveness to continually make his team better is apparent in everything he does.
For him to succeed in the SEC, that is going to have to translate to the recruiting trail.
Since 2007, Bielema's average recruiting class rank is 50th, according to Rivals.com. He was the most vocal opposition to Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer's tactics of recruiting players that have already committed elsewhere.
He better get used to it, because it's only going to get tougher in the SEC—and specifically, the SEC West.
His prowess—or lack thereof—on the recruiting trail is the only reason why this grade isn't a grand slam.
But it is still a solid hire and raises the bar on the coaching level in the SEC.
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