SEC Country reporter Eric W. Bolin will candidly answer your Arkansas Razorbacks sports queries each weekday in our Mailbag Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryHogs or by email to Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question of the Day: Tuesday, February 13, 2018
First of all, I’m obviously not Eric Bolin. I’m filling in for him on this Tuesday. I’ll do my best not to bring shame to his effectiveness with these posts.
It’s a little perplexing Arkansas suddenly fell to 4-8 in Bret Bielema’s final season, isn’t it? I mean, the Hogs were never great under Bielema, but even those who believed the least in Arkansas (See: Eric Bolin) weren’t predicting just four wins last season.
So, was the downfall from coaching or talent? It’s both, but ultimately that’s 100 percent on coaching. There was talent, just not enough of it to create the amount of depth it takes to be a consistent winner in the SEC. That’s either due to poor recruiting or poor development. Even those around the program every day likely don’t know exactly which of those areas deserves more blame. Probably a little bit of both. What is clear, is that’s on the coaching staff.
It’s obvious now, and it even probably was when Bielema took over, Arkansas can’t be the program that wins games by grinding through opponents with two tight ends and a fullback. That plan didn’t work because it takes immense amounts of depth (Alabama level) to sustain a winning program in the SEC West that way. If one unit isn’t up to snuff, even through injuries, it’s going to fail.
When the offensive line fell apart the past two seasons, the whole system came crashing down. Arkansas couldn’t control games the way it wanted, and the defense was exposed for its alarming lack of depth. That goes back to coaching as well. Offensive line coach Sam Pittman left for Georgia after the 2015 season. The Bulldogs just won the SEC title with the best rushing offense in the conference. Bielema hired Kurt Anderson and Arkansas’ line took a nosedive.
Bielema had talent, just not enough of it. He also didn’t have a game plan that could work around deficiencies in order to at least keep the Hogs competitive through a tough season.
Honestly, I could write a book — that probably no one would read — about why things didn’t work with Bielema at Arkansas. Those are just some of the things I believe caused things to fall apart.
I do believe Chad Morris has the recipe to turn things around, though. He’s bringing an innovative offense to Arkansas that can give even the best SEC opponents headaches. That offense should go a long way toward getting the Hogs back to a bowl game next season, even with a roster that still has some glaring holes. The schedule — without a Power 5 nonconference opponent — also will help.
Morris also has great energy, a roster not totally devoid of talent and a solid defensive coordinator in John Chavis. I think all that will equate to positive momentum around the program early in his tenure. If he’s able to translate that into recruiting success over the next couple years, he’ll be a success at Arkansas for years to come.
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