Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Search for DC still on
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, center left, walks along the bench during an NCAA college football game against Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J., Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013.(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema will enter the second week of his search for a defensive coordinator today after Chris Ash left for Ohio State last Tuesday.
Bielema has maintained a busy schedule of recruiting and travel since an active recruiting period opened last Thursday.
Memphis defensive coordinator Barry Odom is thought to be in the mix.
Odom has guided the Tigers’ defense to national rankings of 50th in 2012 and 39th last season after Memphis finished 117th in total defense in 2011 before his arrival. The 2012 Tigers improved their yards-per-game average by 108 yards.
Robb Smith, a former Rutgers defensive coordinator who was linebackers coach on the now-departed Greg Schiano staff for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013, is also thought to be a candidate to join the Arkansas program.
Smith was a graduate assistant at Iowa (1999-2001) when Bielema was linebackers coach for the Hawkeyes.
Rutgers Coach Kyle Flood is also reportedly interested in bringing Smith back to the Scarlet Knights staff.
Bielema said last week he would also consider promoting a current member of his staff, and added, “I’ll take the weekend, see where we’re at, take a good look and see what gives us the best opportunity to win.”Super Bowl bound
Former Razorback Alvin Bailey, who declared early for the NFL Draft but went undrafted last year, will be Arkansas’ lone representative in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.
Bailey, a rookie with the Seattle Seahawks, split time at offensive tackle in Sunday’s 23-17 victory over San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game.
The Broken Arrow, Okla., native had a key block on Marshawn Lynch’s 40-yard touchdown run that tied the score at 10-10 in the third quarter.
He will be the 32nd Arkansas player or coach to make it to the Super Bowl. The Razorbacks have extended their streak to six consecutive Super Bowls in which a former player is on a roster of one of the participating teams.
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema will have four ex-players on Super Bowl XLVIII rosters, which is the most of any coach in the country.
Former Wisconsin players who played for Bielema involved in the game are Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, safety Chris Maragos and linebacker O’Brien Schofield.
Arkansas’ representatives at the Senior Bowl went through weigh-in and measurements and their first practice with the South squad on Monday in Mobile, Ala., with defensive end Chris Smith checking in at 6-1, 266 pounds and center Travis Swanson at 6-5, 310 pounds.
OptimumScouting.com rates Swanson as the No. 1 center available in April’s NFL Draft with a first-round grade, and rates Smith as the No. 6 defensive end with a second-round grade.
Hocker’s a hit
Former Razorback Zach Hocker snapped a 13-13 tie with a career-best 56-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to lead the East to a 23-13 victory in the annual East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday.
Hocker, of Russellville, made 3 of 3 field goals in the game and scored a game-high 11 points. He made field goals of 31 and 34 yards in the first half, then hit his 56-yarder with 11:16 left in the game to surpass the 54-yard kick he made against Mississippi State in Little Rock this season.
Marilyn Bielema, mother of Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema, will join Shelley McMillion as an honorary co-chair for the 2014 Komen Ozark Race for the Cure on April 26.
Bielema, a three-time breast cancer survivor and long-time supporter of breast cancer research, is a retired day-care operator who lives in Prophetstown, Ill., with her husband, Arnie.
“If my story can help one woman make the decision to get her mammogram, then everything I have been through is worth it,” Marilyn Bielema said in a recent news release. “I am so excited to come to Arkansas and celebrate the wonderful people who make this race great. As a mom and survivor, there is no other place I want to be on April 26.”
Sports, Pages 15 on 01/21/2014