Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Bielema understanding state better
Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema talks about the Arkansas Razorbacks' new players during the national signing day press conference at the Fred Smith Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - The accents contrast North and South but the message echoed like they were one.
For what second-year Arkansas Razorbacks Coach Bret Bielema, previously hailing from Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, said last Wednesday regarding recruiting Arkansans for Arkansas, DeWitt born Arkansas lifer Harold Horton has said throughout his time at the University of Arkansas as a football player (1957-1961), coach (1968-1980) and administrator (1990-2012).
While announcing the Razorbacks’ 2014 recruiting class on Wednesday’s national signing date, Bielema asserted that future Arkansans that he and Barry Lunney Jr., the Arkansas born tight ends coach and Arkansas’ chief recruiter within Arkansas, deemed recruiting worthy also would be thoroughly evaluated by the position coaches advised to look with a positive eye.
“As soon as there is [an Arkansas-rooted] player at their position they evaluate them 100 times over,” Bielema said. “And make sure we get a fair and just evaluation on it and understand if that kid can play, we need to get him here and even err on the side of getting him here.”
The Razorbacks for 2014 only sought six from Arkansas and signed five.
“No doubt,” Bielema and Lunney said Wednesday, the number of Arkies sought and signed for 2015 will increase with forecasts of a bigger Arkansas crop of Division I worthy high school seniors.
Of Arkansans’ intangibles, Bielema said he learned much his first year recruiting then junior El Dorado defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson whose signature Wednesday punctuates this year’s class.
“The greatest thing about Bijhon is he probably helped me understand Arkansas more than anybody else,” Bielema said Wednesday.”I saw tape and realized we wanted to offer him when I first got here. Coach Lunney and I went down there and the whole town stopped. We went to his dad’s workplace and 200 or 300 employees welcomed us with a Hog call walking in the door. It’s not just the young man and not just his family - it’s a community behind him that wanted him to have success. That’s what Arkansas is all about.”
For decades, Horton maintained that if talented enough to be considered recruiting worthy, Arkansans that Razorbacks coaches evaluate should be viewed more on their potential to succeed than their potential limitations.
The abundance of Arkies, including All-Americans Leotis Harris, Dan Hampton and Jimmy Walker and All-Southwest Conference performers Larry Jackson and Robert Farrell and starters William Hampton, Dale White, Donny Bobo, Chuck Herman and Michael Forrest among others that Horton and Ken Turner recruited for Frank Broyles put Lou Holtz on the national map when he inherited them in 1977.
Holtz’s early Arkansas success held up nationally for his Notre Dame coaching and ESPN Dr. Lou highlights to come even after forgetting Arkansas roots cost him his Arkansas job.
Though Bielema’s finishing 3-9 in 2013 put him behind in the count, he’s appreciating the Arkies’ importance could eventually put him ahead of the game.
Sports, Pages 16 on 02/10/2014