Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Bielema in no rush to replace Partridge
The top-paid state employee is Bret Bielema, head football coach at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. His salary is $3.2 million this fiscal year.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said Tuesday he has a list of potential defensive line coaches in mind and that he has received numerous phone calls about the opening, but it might be January before he makes the hire to replace Charlie Partridge.
“I’ve got a waiting list of three at every position at all times that I’ll go to immediately,” Bielema said. “Some of those guys that are on my list for him, the short list, are in bowl games or the NFL, so I’ve got to take some time before I can begin to interview those guys. But it’s something that I’ll get started on immediately.”
Bielema said he’d like to have the new coach in place when active recruiting resumes Jan. 16.
Partridge, who had been on Bielema’s staffs at Wisconsin and Arkansas the past six years, was introduced Tuesday as the fourth head coach at Florida Atlantic, which is a half hour from his hometown of Plantation, Fla.
“I knew this day would come sooner or later,” Bielema said. “Very excited for him and his family, very well-deserved. He did a tremendous job for me. That’s why I knew he’d get this spot eventually.”
Bielema said he called Florida Atlantic Athletic Director Pat Chun as soon as Chun made contact with Arkansas about talking to Partridge, who was the defensive line coach at Arkansas.
“I sang his praises because I wanted him to get the job,” Bielema said.
Bielema could appoint someone who is not a part of his on-field coaching staff to take Partridge’s place in recruiting, but Bielema said there was no need to do that since new NCAA rules have made this week a dead period in recruiting.
His new hire will not necessarily have to be a south Florida recruiting expert, as Partridge is, Bielema said. The Razorbacks have other assistants with vast Florida recruiting on their resumes, most notably linebackers coach Randy Shannon and defensive coordinator Chris Ash, as well as Bielema.
“Best fit,” Bielema said. “Charlie’s such a good technician, you want to make sure that that’s respected. He’s got to bring an element to it. I think you’re just looking for the right fit in that room.”
Bielema said he isn’t expecting other departures among his assistant coaches, but that with the coaching carousel just beginning to crank up, anything could happen.
“There’s none of that going on right now, but just in the world of college football, what’s fixing to happen with maybe some chain reactions, it can get crazy in a short amount of time,” he said.
Bielema also revealed Monday that the Razorbacks are preparing to make an even stronger push in their Texas recruiting.
“You have a guy that’s the biggest name in the NFL sitting in Dallas who said to me when I met him, ‘Bret, anything I can do to make Arkansas great, I want to do it,’ ” Bielema said, referring to Dallas Cowboys owner and former Razorback Jerry Jones. “So we’ve got a whole list of things we’re going to ratchet up even more. I’ve got five coaches in the state of Texas recruiting on a daily basis.”
Bielema mentioned the possibility of having billboards, other media approaches and more speaking engagements for him and his coaching staff as other ways to penetrate Texas more thoroughly.
For the first time in 16 years, Bielema said, he’s going through late December without bowl preparations after the Razorbacks finished 3-9 with a school-record nine game losing streak. Instead of getting in practice time, the Razorbacks are undergoing a far-reaching self-critique.
Coaches on each side of the ball are breaking down video and preparing as if they are game-planning to take on the other side of the ball.
“We’ll get together Thursday and Friday and discuss what they see and what they can do to help each other on both sides of the ball,” Bielema said. “So it’s kind of a fun time for us to kind of self-critique.”
Bielema said the reception he’s seen on the recruiting trail has been off the charts.
“I think, again, it reassures you that if you handle things the right way, if you talk to people the right way, if you follow up with people the right way … we got a kid the other day because of the way I treated a kid seven years ago that was in our program,” he said.
Bielema is giving his coaching staff about 10 days off around the Christmas break, with a return in early January to close out the final month of recruiting before national signing day.
Sports, Pages 19 on 12/18/2013