Exactly How Different Will It Be for New Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema in the SEC?

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterDecember 7, 2012

It came out of left field, but Arkansas landed a solid coach to replace John L. Smith when it hired Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin earlier this week.

As is the case with any change in leadership, there will be an adjustment period. 

But just how different will it be in Fayetteville now that Bielema—who, ironically, grew up on a hog farm—is roaming the sidelines?

Systematically, it will be much different. Specifically, the Hogs will play defense. They've finished eighth or worse in the SEC in total defense in five of the last six seasons, but Bielema's Wisconsin teams have finished in the top four in the Big Ten in total defense in each of the last five seasons.

It will be a welcomed change for Arkansas, which learned under former head coach Bobby Petrino that offense is great, but doesn't win championships in the SEC.

The Razorbacks will continue to employ a punishing running game, but if there's another staple of the Wisconsin team under Bielema, it's a big, physical offensive line—also something that has been lacking recently in Fayetteviille.

Arkansas better hope that Bielema brings a recruiting edge to Fayetteville.

The Razorbacks' average recruiting class over the last six seasons ranked 31.6 in the Rivals.com recruiting rankings. That makes Petrino's 29 wins over a three-year stretch even more impressive, and is a testament to Petrino's ability as a coach.

But recruiting is the biggest cause for concern for Bielema. His average recruiting rank over that same time period at Wisconsin was 50th according to Rivals.com, and he was the most vocal Urban Meyer detractor when he was hired by Ohio State in November 2011.

Bielema took exception to Meyer not adhering to a "gentleman's agreement" that existed in the Big Ten that head coaches wouldn't recruit prospects committed to other Big Ten schools.

If Bielema was upset about it then, he is going to have to get over it—because the SEC certainly isn't going to change on account of Bielema's presence at Arkansas.

It's going to take time for Bielema to turn things around though. 

The Hogs are losing quarterback Tyler Wilson, wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, running back Dennis Johnson, tight end Chris Gragg, linebackers Tenarius Wright and Alonzo Highsmith and perhaps running back Knile Davis.

That's a lot of talent potentially departing Fayetteville, regardless of what they did in 2012.

Arkansas landing Bielema from Wisconsin was certainly a coup on athletic director Jeff Long's part, but it's a whole different ballgame in the SEC. But defensively and up front, the Hogs should be just fine.

The turnaround just may take some time.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.