Bielema isn’t in hurry with his offense

By: Nate Allen
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Bret Bielema's first spring practice at Arkansas will begin March 10.
Photo by Benjamin Krain
Bret Bielema's first spring practice at Arkansas will begin March 10.

— Ideally, a hurry-up no-huddle offense wears out the defense.

Trouble is, Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema believes the defense worn out may be your own.

So the former Wisconsin coach casts himself in the atypical role of preaching a slower pace of life coming from the North to the South.

The Arkansas offenses of Coach Bobby Petrino (2008-2011) and his brother Paul Petrino, who called the offense for interim coach John L. Smith last season, operated at light-speed pace whether they huddled or not.

The mind-boggling numbers, particularly in passing, that Bobby Petrino’s teams achieved - plus a solid running game as well when Knile Davis was healthy in 2010 - are nearly impossible to dispute.

But hear Bielema out, especially if you recall that 16-second possession Arkansas had last September that left underdog Louisiana-Monroe just enough time to tie it in regulation and then pull off a stunning 34-31 overtime upset in Little Rock.

“Any time you speed the ball up offensively, you not only are wearing down your offense but you are wearing down your defense,” Bielema said. “Sometimes your defense may be on the sidelines for a total of a minute or 45 seconds,and you just can’t sustain that over a period of time.

“Part of our philosophy is clock management. Ever since I have been there [Wisconsin] as head coach we have always been probably in the top two or three in the Big Ten and a lot of times No. 1 in being able to control the clock, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist long to figure out if you have the ball more than your opponent you usually score more.”

So how does Bielema, inheriting offensive players geared to hurry, adjust them to the pace that he and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney plan to set?

It likely helps that Chaney has overseen offenses as varied as his past coaching stops: Cal State-Fullerton, Wyoming, Purdue, the NFL’s St. Louis Rams and then back to college and in the SEC at Tennessee.

“I think it’s going to be a transitional thing,” Bielema said. “ It’snothing you can change over the course of one evening or one month. We have to cultivate our players into believing what our formula is. It is something we feel strongly about as coaches, and Jim Chaney has done a little bit of both.

“It’s not going to be Wisconsin reincarnated, but we will have a lot of similarities, a lot of the same beliefs and philosophies, and a lot of that starts with tempo.”

Bielema has been part of two power conferences, coordinating the defense for Kansas State in the Big 12 between his Big Ten stops playing and coaching at Iowa then coordinating Wisconsin’s defense before elevated to head coach. But he says he has never recruited to a conference that attracts like the SEC.

”You are part of the conference that has won seven straight national championships,” Bielema said. “That makes a lot of difference.”

Sports, Pages 18 on 02/27/2013