The major change Bielema has made is hiring a coaching staff that is as known for their ability to build relationships with players as well as their coaching skills.
Bobby Petrino’s last staff consisted of offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, who has demonstrated in recent weeks in interviews just what he thought of the players at Arkansas. He made comments that several upper classmen phoned the season in and suggested that some of the Razorbacks’ injury woes were possibly faked.
Any coach that has a tough season undoubtedly has regrets and issues with on-field personnel. But a coach that leaves a college program and proceeds to make negative comments in the media about former players has issues respecting student athletes.
That issue would not be limited to the playing field.
It would also spill over onto the recruiting trail. It’s hard for a coach to build relationships with players when he doesn’t respect them.
It also demonstrates that Paul Petrino is not exactly forward thinking. How many potential recruits considering playing at Idaho would be turned off by a coach trashing former players in the media?
New offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s last season at Tennessee saw the Volunteers go 1-7 in conference play and finish next to last in the SEC East. He probably could have pointed fingers and placed blame, too, but he didn’t.
Aside from building relationships with student athletes, the new staff also has a more dogged approach to signing players, going so far as to reopen communication with Alabama commit Altee Tenpenny.
Tenpenny will sign with Alabama, but would Bobby Petrino’s previous staff have gone through the extra effort to try to sign a “lost cause” such as Tenpenny?
Alex Collins was considered by many to be a lock for Miami until Monday night. Sometimes it pays to keep lines of communication open and pursue a player’s signature till the end.
Bielema’s new staff is already showing that they are better than the previous staff at building relationships with student athletes and being persistent until a player signs on the dotted line.
These are two basic changes, primarily in attitude, that will have positive impacts as Bielema executes his plan and vision for the program.