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:
Bielema, Malzahn want victories, not feuds
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema watches practice on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
There is no feud.
Bret Bielema doesn't hate Gus Malzahn, and Malzahn doesn't hate Bielema.
They have a difference in philosophy about football. That's it.
As much as some media like to throw gas on the old fire that Bielema believes -- and he does believe it -- the hurry-up, no-huddle offense will eventually cause injuries to defensive players, that battle line has become dust in the wind for now.
Bielema has to be sick of being asked about his relationship with Malzahn.
He's said over and over and over that he has no problems with Malzahn, that he respects him as a football coach. While it is true they aren't going out to dinner, that doesn't mean he doesn't like Malzahn.
Do people really want a head football coach who wants to go to dinner with the coaches he needs to beat?
Do people really want a head football coach who doesn't want to win the SEC championship?
Do people really want a head football coach who doesn't want to beat Alabama?
Of course not.
If LSU fans even thought Les Miles didn't want to beat Alabama and win the SEC, they would baste him in hot sauce, toss him in a ditch to simmer for a couple of days and then barbecue him on the 50-yard line in front of a sold-out crowd.
Now, that said, anyone who thought Bielema was going to come in and beat Alabama and win the SEC in his first three years needs to see about getting a Hog Hat one size larger.
So when the Razorbacks run out onto the field Saturday afternoon to take on the Auburn Tigers, Bielema and Malzahn will meet at midfield sometime during warm-ups and exchange pleasantries.
Neither will be secretly trying to spit on the other.
Bielema, his staff and the new-thinking Razorbacks will try to beat a team that is more confident and deeper in talent.
It will always be true that if you don't have animals, you don't have a zoo. No matter how brilliant a coach might be, he must have players.
According to Rivals.com, Auburn has clearly bested the Razorbacks in recruiting the past five years.
In 2010, Auburn ranked No. 4 in the nation while Arkansas was No. 49; in 2011 they were seventh and 24th; in 2012 they were 10th and 34th; in 2013 they were eighth and 27th; and for 2014 they were ninth and 29th.
Whose hand would you rather play? Malzahn's, with a team that in the past five years signed nine five-star players and 59 four-stars, or Bielema's, which in the same period of time had zero five-star players and just 16 four-star players become Razorbacks?
There does appear to be a trend changing for the Hogs. For the 2015 recruiting class they are ranked 38th but have only 11 commitments as opposed to 21 by No. 1 Alabama. Of those 11, four are four-star players, which equals the most in any recruiting class in the past five years.
It would be a huge boost for Arkansas if North Little Rock receiver K.J. Hill commits to being part of a new foundation and direction for Razorbacks football.
As for Saturday, the Hogs have to hope that the size of the fight in the dog can even out playing such a big dog.
Auburn has 14 starters back from a team that played for the national championship last year, losing 34-31, and, yes, starting quarterback Nick Marshall will sit out part of the game, but that might be only one possession. (What if the Hogs return the opening kick for a touchdown and then get a pick-six for a quick 14-0 lead?)
All signs point to Auburn winning this game, but before the game and after it Bret Bielema and Gus Malzahn will be coaches doing what coaches do.
They are just trying to get a victory and move on.
Sports on 08/28/2014