ARKANSAS FOOTBALL:

Bielema’s staff 40ish, diverse

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Bret Bielema completed his nine-man coaching staff on Thursday, hiring Kansas State receivers coach Michael Smith.
Photo by Michael Woods
Bret Bielema completed his nine-man coaching staff on Thursday, hiring Kansas State receivers coach Michael Smith.

— A decisively younger football coaching staff will take the field when Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema’s 2013 team debuts Aug. 31 against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The average age of Bielema’s staff at kickoff will be 42.9 years, a drop of nearly six years per man from the John L. Smith staff of 2012, which averaged 48.5 years when the Razorbacks defeated Jacksonville State in their season opener.

GOING YOUNGER

HEAD COACH

2013: Bret Bielema (43); 2012: John L. Smith (63)

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR

2013: Jim Chaney (51); 2012: Paul Petrino (45)

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR

2013: Chris Ash (39); 2012: Paul Haynes (43)

OFFENSIVE LINE

2013: Sam Pittman (51); 2012: Chris Klenakis (48)

WIDE RECEIVERS

2013: Michael Smith (42); 2012: Kris Cinkovich (51)

RUNNING BACKS

2013: Joel Thomas (38); 2012: Tim Horton (44)

TIGHT ENDS/DEFENSIVE ENDS

2013: B. Lunney Jr (38); 2012: Steve Caldwell (56)

DEFENSIVE LINE

2013: Charlie Partridge (39); 2012: Kevin Peoples (42)

LINEBACKERS

2013: Randy Shannon (47); 2012: Taver Johnson (41)

SECONDARY

2013: Taver Johnson (41); 2012: Bobby Allen (53)

Even if the 20-year difference between Bielema and Smith is not included, the new staff is still, on average, four years younger than the previous staff.

Bielema, 43, will be Arkansas’ youngest head coach since Ken Hatfield made his Arkansas head coaching debut in 1984 at 41.

Bielema wrapped up his six-week search for assistants late last week by hiring former Arkansas quarterback Barry Lunney Jr., 38, as his tight ends coach and getting receivers coach Michael Smith, 42, to leave Kansas State for the same position. The process included a curve ball when George McDonald, 36, his first choice for receivers coach, resigned last week to take the offensive coordinator’s position at Syracuse.

Bielema said in a UA release Thursday after completing his nine-man on-field staff, “When I came to Arkansas, I said I wanted to assemble a staff second to none. The administration has shown tremendous support of that goal and Michael Smith completes the group in exciting fashion.

“Our staff is made up of individuals who have earned respect within the profession and should generate excitement for our program.”

Age won’t be the only differing dynamic for the 2013 coaches. Bielema’s staff includes four black assistants, double the number on the2012 staff. The diversity in the program could play a role in recruiting.

Smith’s arrival gives the staff a south Louisiana and Texas recruiting link, based on his history of signing recruits from those areas at Kansas State.

“I’ve developed a lot of great relationships in both states, especially Texas, because that was our corridor in the Big 12,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of great players down there.”

McDonald is a noted Florida recruiter, but the staff also includes Bielema, Randy Shannon and Charlie Partridge, who have all recruited well in the Sunshine State.

The loss of recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Tim Horton, a former Razorback, could impact instate recruiting, but Bielema has vowed his program will clean up on recruits in Arkansas.

“It’s going to be important from this day forward that we throw a fence around the state borders and realize everybody needs to stay here at home and represent us in a very positive manner,” Bielema said at his introductory news conference.

Bielema’s staff has a combined 167 seasons of coaching experience on the college level and seven more in the NFL, giving the group an average of 17.4 years per man on those levels.

The new Arkansas staff has been part of 3 national championships, 29 conference championships and 67 seasons that included one of the above accomplishments or a bowl victory, according to statistics compiled by the UA football media relations department.

Members of the staff have been part of six victories over No. 1-ranked teams, 47 victories over teams ranked in the Associated Press top 10, and 149 victories over teams in the AP Top 25, per the UA research.

The total ages of the 2012 staff averaged 48.5 years while the 2013 staff average is 42.9 years.

Sports, Pages 15 on 01/22/2013

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