COMMENTARY:

UA flips to Sutton style with Bielema

By: NATE ALLEN
Published: Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Many coaches’ names were mentioned in newspapers and on television and radio, but Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long kept his cards so close to his vest that he shocked the whole nation when it was announced that Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema was Arkansas’ new head coach.
Many coaches’ names were mentioned in newspapers and on television and radio, but Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long kept his cards so close to his vest that he shocked the whole nation when it was announced that Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema was Arkansas’ new head coach.

— Veteran Arkansas basketball fans remembering and respecting Eddie Sutton’s and Nolan Richardson’s contrasting approaches learned to appreciate both Hall of Fame coaches’ styles.

Razorbacks football fans hope again to appreciate contrasts with Bret Bielema following Bobby Petrino after a 4-8 interim this year between the two tenures.

Sutton preached patience and a methodical offense based on his sticky half-court man-to-man defense while Richardson epitomized full-blown pressure full-court.

“Play fast” was Petrino’s Arkansas offensive edict from 2008-2011, often going no-huddle or quickly dispatching out of the huddle to annually set Razorbacks passing records.

Up-tempo certainly described the Petrino and Richardson philosophies.

But the Bielema book that Arkansas’ new football coach brings from Wisconsin could have been penned by Sutton.

“We will play a style of offense that won’t be up-tempo,” Bielema said during Saturday’s Arkansas media teleconference.

He explained why.

“I think your offensive and defensive philosophies have to be married together,” Bielema said. “There are some teams that may be really, really good on offense but their defense is terrible because of the pace that they play and the problems they put their defense in.”

Haste can waste, Bielema believes. An offense zooming to the line of scrimmage intent on surprising the opposition risks badly surprising itself operating hurried and harried.

“Offensively, I don’t want to speed the game up,” Bielema said. “I want to play with great demeanor. I want to be clean in the huddle. We want to be very, very efficient in the way that we play.”

At Wisconsin from 2006-2012, his wants were filled very efficiently. Bielema’s Badgers were 68-24 with three Big Ten titles.

“If you follow my track record the last several years at Wisconsin,” Bielema said, “we don’t give the ball away. We don’t make dumb mistakes. We aren’t penalized. We don’t put ourselves in position to fail before we snap the ball. I think that’s going to be paramount to our success.”

Petrino tended to favor an offense that would outscore you over a defense that would stop you.

Bielema’s Badgers stressed their defense stopping you first thenkeeping your opponent’s offense idly parked while his offense methodically drove, wearing down your defense.

Which style is better?

Given the last two years that Petrino coached Arkansas in 2010 and 2011 he was going 10-3 and 11-2 while Bielema’s Badgers went 11-2 and 11-3, it seems both styles can work awfully well.

Like Sutton would say in deference to the opponent during his old Southwest Conference days taking on the great Guy Lewis run-andgun Houston Cougars teams, or Richardson implied in admiration of prepping for Pete Carril’s maddeningly patient Princeton Tigers before the 1990 NCAA Tournament, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.”

If older Arkansas fans have cause eventually to appreciate Bret after Bobby like they came to appreciate Nolan after Eddie, then they will have spanned the style globe in two sports for some of the best of both worlds.

Sports, Pages 14 on 12/26/2012

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