Arkansas Football: DC Chris Ash Brings Strong Resume, but Is an SEC Outsider
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The first pieces of the Arkansas coaching puzzle came together on Tuesday night when the university announced that Chris Ash will join new head coach Bret Bielema's staff as defensive coordinator of the Razorbacks.
The former Wisconsin co-defensive coordinator spent three seasons with Bielema at Wisconsin, and will be charged with turning around a Hog defense that has been mediocre-at-best over the last half-decade.
"In the last three years working together, I gained a great respect for the way Chris teaches the game and develops student-athletes," said Bielema in a release from Arkansas. "I've followed his career for a long time, and his knowledge of the way we run our program and specifically the defense will be valuable for us moving forward in our transition."
During his three seasons with the Badgers, the last two of which were as co-defensive coordinator, the team finished in the top three in the Big Ten in total defense and top four in total defense.
Sure, the Big Ten isn't exactly dripping with offensive prowess, but that kind of consistency has been missing in action in Fayetteville for quite some time.
Wisconsin only sent two defensive players to the NFL through the draft over the last three seasons, including first-round selection J.J. Watt in 2011. Quite a testament to Ash's ability to coach players up.
Together, Bielema and Ash will bring an old-school attack to Arkansas predicated on running the ball and playing defense.
But is Ash the right fit?
In the SEC, it's not just the X's and the O's, it's the Jimmys and the Joes.
Like Bielema, Ash has no experience coaching in the SEC or the south in general. However, has recruited in Texas and Florida in the past, according to Clay Henry of HawgsIllustrated.com (subscription required).
Will Chris Ash turn the Arkansas defense around?
Wisconsin's recruiting classes over the last six years have an average rank of 50th in the country, according to Rivals.com. That won't cut it in the SEC.
One of the most critical items on the agenda for Bielema and Ash is to surround themselves with a staff that is familiar with the area, including current recruiting coordinator Tim Horton, who is in the mix for the Appalachian State head coaching job (according to CoachingSearch.com).
Keeping the pipeline to the state of Texas is the most important aspect of Arkansas' current recruiting plan. The Razorbacks had 21 players from the state of Texas on its 2012 roster, and with Texas A&M now in the division and recruiting its tail off, that pipeline is in jeopardy.
Ash brings a brilliant resume to Fayetteville, and if he can get comfortable with the recruiting landscape, he can bring the Hogs back in a hurry.
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