Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Like it is:
Foundation needed for sustainable success
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema speaks to media at the Southeastern Conference football media days on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Sunday it was Tom Murphy and Monday it was Bob Holt.
Good, in-depth writing leading up to Monday's first football practice for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Murphy's look at the forthcoming season, and last season, posed some interesting questions; Holt's story on Brey Cook and others revealed the excitement the players feel.
Granted, you can basically take those stories, change the names and some of the dates, and they could appear in any newspaper in the country.
Every team is undefeated.
Everyone is excited.
The Razorbacks are saying all the right things: They are coming to work, not to play, which is great since college football is more of a business now than ever before.
Yet, this is still a new beginning for Coach Bret Bielema and Arkansas, and new starts can be refreshing, fun and interesting.
For new beginnings to remain that way and become more, a foundation must be built, and that appears to be what Bielema is doing in a very upbeat way.
There is absolutely no way he could have known that the team he took over -- one year removed from the Cotton Bowl and two years removed from the BCS Sugar Bowl -- would lack speed, discipline and talent.
No, not at every position, just too many positions.
It appears, though, that Bielema has a theory that is sound. And given time, the foundation will be incredibly solid because it will get the kids an education and develop them as football players individually and as members of a team.
The same thing Nick Saban, Les Miles, Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier and a host of other coaches are doing.
It was a practice followed by some of the nation's most successful coaches when the above mentioned were sweating through two-a-days in junior high.
You don't coach to win for one game or one season, but to build a sustainable program, one that will still win eight games and go to a nice bowl when it is faced with a rebuilding year, and that doesn't happen overnight.
Bielema has said it time and time again -- player development. People think offensive line when he says it because he had such great success at Wisconsin with that position.
And make no mistake, it is wise to start development in the trenches. Football has always been about blocking and tackling.
Great quarterbacks have protection. Great running backs have holes to run through. Great defenses have great tackling.
Blocking and tackling lead to victories and bowls. That success helps in recruiting, but the main challenge a coach faces in recruiting is proving to players they are going to improve in college and get a legitimate shot at the NFL after that.
Probably 95 percent of the high school players who are in the middle of getting ready for this season believe they are a pro in the making, that all they need is a coach who will push them to the top and not hold them back.
Obviously, the majority of those youngsters are going to be disappointed, but that's where the education part comes into play, especially with parents.
Still, when LSU has nine players taken in the NFL Draft, as it did in May, it generally pays dividends in the future.
Success depends on many things, including luck. But to have the best chance to have winning football you have to have players who believe in their head coach, that he has their interests at heart and will develop their skills.
Bielema appears to be one of those coaches who develops players, and that's a good thing, because he's got a huge chore ahead of him.
Sports on 08/05/2014