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.
Flowers’ return says plenty about Bielema
Arkansas defenders (left to right) Robert Thomas, Trey Flowers and Brandon Lewis celebrate after a turnover during Saturday afternoon's game against Louisiana-Lafayette at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Bret Bielema can be confident he just received the best vote of confidence an Arkansas football coach can get after going winless in SEC play.
Votes of confidence from athletic directors and chancellors are followed so routinely by the axe, sometimes just days later, that they have become viewed less with confidence and more with dread.
Human nature compels those who hired the wrong guy not to admit that he is the wrong guy until the parting is announced.
However, when Arkansas’ best senior-to-be with the best chance to turn pro — defensive end Trey Flowers — asserted Monday that he believes so strongly that his coach is the right guy that he is coming back to play for him next season, that’s an authentic vote of confidence.
Even more important to a coach’s success than the belief from the suits who hired him and the fans whose support make possible the program he pilots is the belief from the players he coaches.
Flowers’ willingness to return underscores what overall seemed to be a strong Razorbacks belief in their new coach despite losing the last nine games of the season.
It seemed Flowers had more cause to turn pro than return to the UA after going through the NCAA-allowed NFL exploratory process.
Sure, he wants to complete his degree and believes that by returning he could enhance his status from a third-round selection — which is where NFL experts predicted he would go if he entered the draft this year — to a first-round selection in 2015.
However, Flowers has any number of opportunities down the road to get the degree Bielema believes he is on schedule to achieve next December. He also risks injuries or a sub par individual season dropping his draft stock for 2015.
Flowers and Chris Smith, a 2013 senior, stood out on bad defenses on bad 4-8 and 3-9 teams these past two seasons in part because of each other. It’s easy to run away from a good defensive end if the end on the other side isn’t so good. Smith and Flowers played well enough to keep each other active and prominent.
But Smith will be gone and so is defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, who is now the head coach at Florida Atlantic.
Still, Flowers returns confident that Bielema, previously 68-24 at Wisconsin with a rich history of sending players to the NFL, will hire the right guy to develop the young ends opposite him.
“I have faith in the team,” Flowers said. “I have got faith in what the coaches are trying to build, and I feel like we have got a lot of guys on the team with a lot of talent and a lot of guys that are going to make it happen.”
Flowers will miss Partridge, but he said playing for a new position coach gives him a new opportunity to learn to adapt.
Frankly, he already seems well schooled there. Embarking on his fourth year at Arkansas while playing for three head coaches, three defensive coordinators and soon three position coaches should have Flowers beyond learning from adaptation and equipped to teach it.
Northwest Arkansas, Pages 14 on 01/08/2014