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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Time for Arkansas fans to support new coach

  • It's time for Arkansas fans to embrace new coach Bret Bielema, who unlike some of the other candidates, obviously has the confidence needed to step into the rugged SEC West after guiding Wisconsin to three-straight Rose Bowl appearances in the Big 10.
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  • It's time for Arkansas fans to embrace new coach Bret Bielema, who unlike some of the other candidates, obviously has the confidence needed to step into the rugged SEC West after guiding Wisconsin to three-straight Rose Bowl appearances in the Big 10. The man knows how to win with tough, hard-nosed football, which is evident by his record of 68-24 in seven seasons at Wisconsin. Although he likes to run the ball, his offenses have been extremely successful and surpisingly balanced. The Big 10 is inferior to the SEC in many ways, but the league up north has produced two of the premier coaches in recent SEC history. Alabama's Nick Saban got started at Michigan State and LSU's Les Miles has deep roots at Michigan. Hopefully, this shocking hire by Athletic Director Jeff Long will lead to similar success for the Razorbacks. Bielema wasn't even on the Hogs' radar as far as the media and fans were concerned until suddenly on Tuesday when news broke that disgruntled Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy was not coming to Fayetteville and Bielema would be named new coach. While driving towards downtown Heber Springs, my first thought upon hearing the news over the radio was what in the world are we doing hiring a guy that is from a different area of the country with a boring offense. I thought…This is the same guy that only beat Houston Nutt 17-14 in a boring Capital One Bowl… He runs the ball even more than Nutt, or so I figured until I looked at the stats from his time at Wisconsin. I have since learned that Bielema was only 35 years old when he beat a talented Razorback team led by Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis. A former walk-on turned starter under legendary Coach Hayden Fry at Iowa, Bielema will hire an offensive coordinator that believes in balance. On Wednesday he said he has six in mind, therefore, he obviously has several good connections. Here is a look at Wisconsin's offensive numbers under Bielema. In 2006, 2007 and 2009, the Badgers produced more passing yards than rushing yards. In 2008 and the past three years the Badgers produced more rushing yards. 2006: 2,749 passing and 2,102 rushing 2007: 2,704 passing and 2,620 rushing 2008: 2,745 rushing and 2,445 passing 2009: 2,770 passing and 2,650 rushing 2010: 3,194 rushing and 2,593 passing 2011: 3,298 rushing and 3,280 passing 2012: 3,091 rushing and 2,114 passing When Long fired Bobby Petrino back in April, I was very concerned with who the replacement would be. Up until Tuesday, I was still concerned. As of today, I think we are headed back in the right direction. Although we have become accustomed and somewhat spoiled by Petrino's high-octane offense, there is certainly more than one way to skin an elephant, tiger or aggie. Another problem doubters have cited is Bielema's recruiting at Wisconsin. As he said in Wednesday's press conference, Wisconsin spent quite a bit of time in Texas and South Florida, where the Badgers have been very successful in plucking some of their best players. If his wife Jenn of Florida is any indication, Bielema will have little trouble recruiting top-notch talent to Arkansas. (Will Gilbert is sports editor for The Sun-Times. Send comments to sports@thesuntimes.com)

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