High school coaches at ease with new staff

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Stuttgart head football coach Billy Elmore said he was impressed with Arkansas' new coaching staff.
Photo by Jimmy Jones
Stuttgart head football coach Billy Elmore said he was impressed with Arkansas' new coaching staff.

— Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema and his staff drew positive reviews from those taking part in the Arkansas Football Coaches Association convention last weekend in Hot Springs, where approximately 500 high school coaches from across the state attended.

Coach Billy Elmore of Class 4A state champion Stuttgart said he was impressed after having an opportunity to talk to the new Razorbacks staff.

“It was just a relaxed atmosphere,” Elmore said. “I know the relationship with high school coaches are important to the college coaches. Those guys really started to develop those relationships over the weekend.”

Friday evening, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and offensive line coach Sam Pittman spoke to coaches for two hours in one room.At the same time, defensive coordinator Chris Ash and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge addressed coaches in a second room.

Bielema was the featured speaker later in the evening and gave insight to the coaches about the Arkansas program and his coaching philosophy.

“He seems like a real personable guy,” Elmore said of Bielema. “That was the impression that I kind of got out of it. He just seemed like he was one of us and that’s something that’s kind of refreshing for the high school coaches to have the coach at the flagship university in the state to hang out and be one of the guys. That’s something I know I heard a lot of coaches talk about.”

Bielema met with the executive committee of the AFCA, which is in its fourth year, on Saturday morning to discuss several topics, including how the Wisconsin coaches association grew from a few hundred to more than 3,000 attendees during his time with the Badgers.

“I’m very excited about what they bring to the state of Arkansas,” said Warren Coach Bo Hembree, who led the Lumberjacks to the Class 4A state quarterfinals last season. “They relate to the coaches in the state very well and bring a lot of excitement to the whole state. They’re ball coaches that love what they do.”

North Little Rock Coach Brad Bolding said he was impressed with Bielema and his staff before the convention. Nothing changed that after spending more time with the Hogs coaches.

“The entire staff enjoyed visiting with all the coaches,” said Bolding, whose Charging Wildcats advanced to the Class 7A state semifinals last season. “Everyone is very excited about the future of Razorback football.”

Camden Fairview Coach Buck James, who lead the Cardinals to the Class 5A state title last season, said Bielema and his staff were easy to relate to.

“They seemed to be really down-to-earth guys,” James said. “Very humble, genuine group of men.”

James said the Arkansas coaches were receptive to listening to the high school coaches.

“They wanted to meet all the coaches and wanted to hear what they had to say,” James said. “They want to be a working partner in the development of high school football in Arkansas. They were just like one of us. I really enjoyed talking to them. They stayed the whole weekend and hung out with the coaches. That meant a lot to the coaches in the state. I hope they have much success.” KANGEROO KID

Punter Sam Irwin-Hill, an Arkansas signee, will have traveled thousands of miles in his quest to play major-college football once he reportsto Fayetteville this summer.

Irwin-Hill, from Bendingo, Australia, learned how to kick from Pro Kick Australia, an academy that helps kickerswith Division I potential find schools in the United States. His journey to Fayetteville began at City College of San Francisco, where Irwin-Hill earned junior college All-American honors as a sophomore after averaging 41.7 yards per punt.

The Hogs started recruiting Irwin-Hill almost a yearago after he averaged 40.6 yards per punt as a freshman.

“They thought it would really be handy to have me on the team,” Irwin-Hill said.

Irwin-Hillsaid he was recruited by graduate assistant Terrance Butler, who answered all of his questions.

“Our friendship really developed through speaking on the phone,” Irwin-Hill said. “He helped me with everything in terms of academics and being the punter on the team and what Arkansas had to offer. I never looked backafter they offered me.”

The opportunity to punt for Arkansas in the SEC is a dream come true for Irwin-Hill, who has seen two fellow Australians kick for LSU.

“You look at the guys that have already done it like Brad Wing and my mate Jamie Keehn,” Irwin-Hill said. “Seeing them kick in front of like 70-80,000 every week and be a around a community that’s so passionate about their football. It really big to be able to sign with Arkansas. It’s huge.”

Irwin-Hill said he has had to make some adjustments in his eating habits in the U.S.

“I must say I miss my meat pies,” Irwin-Hill said. “You go to a bakery back at home and it’s kind of like a chicken pot pie, but it’s minced meat and gravy. A sausage roll is pretty much like a sausage wrapped in a pastry.”

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Sports, Pages 38 on 02/17/2013