The guessing game on Arkansas’ record next year started for many fans before the post-mortem on the Belk Bowl loss.
Stepping back and looking at it, the outlook for the future is, well, grim.
The three top receivers on the team are gone. While the Hogs have gotten a pair of wide receivers from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, the best wideout on that team signed at Central Arkansas.
The last time the Razorbacks lost their top three receivers to graduation and had a senior quarterback coming back was 2012.
Dan Skipper finally ran out of eligibility. Some will applaud that, but he was the best lineman on the team and filling his left tackle spot is not going to be easy.
While many of the talking heads who don’t look at anything other than well-worn propaganda have spewed the line that the Hogs are a running team. No they aren’t. They are a passing team because they don’t have the linemen to run the ball consistently. Just over 61 percent of their yardage came through the air.
With four years in the book, it’s clear Bielema is out of his element at Arkansas. Making blowhard claims, crying at the drop of the hat and looking like a bum in flip-flops at the office has worn thin.
So has references to what he did at Wisconsin. Considering that the Badgers have actually improved since Bielema left is a sign that maybe Barry Alvarez had something to do with it. Even in basketball, too.
Wisconsin has become what Arkansas was in the late 1970’s through the 1980’s with football and basketball competing for national championships.
Arkansas has fallen to almost laughingstock status in the SEC in football and basketball.
Maybe Jeff Long thought hiring a coach like Bielema back in 2012 — a coach that liked to do the same things Nick Saban was doing at Alabama — was the way to go.
He should have called around. That doesn’t work.
Maybe the scariest part of that whole scenario is that Long couldn’t see that or didn’t ask anyone. To do what Saban is doing at Alabama can’t be accomplished in his way … Arkansas has never recruited at the level the Tide does.
The only way Arkansas can win at a big-time level is either take recruiting to a level that is light years ahead of what has happened in the last couple of decades or have a coaching scheme that works. Petrino proved that can work.
At a time when the SEC coaching talent is at an all-time league low, the Hogs are stuck at the lower part of that ladder.
With a football coach that has made such ridiculous statements like telling Texas high school coaches, “If you don’t play with a fullback, we’ll kick your ass. If you throw it 70 times a game, we’ll kick your ass.”
That made its way through the coaching circles rather quickly and even made it over to Arkansas coaches. Considering that pretty much was looking down his nose at over 90 percent of high school coaches, the lack of success in recruiting isn’t surprising.
He even criticized the hurry-up, no-huddle offenses, even making up supporting data out of thin air. At the time, Saban thought he shared the view.
Now Saban has incorporated tempo and a dual-threat quarterback.
“I looked at what types of offenses gave us the most trouble and incorporated that into our scheme,” he said.
At times this season, Bielema has looked completely bewildered during games. While he is goofy at times and often engages his mouth before his brain, he’s not a complete idiot.
But he may be stubborn.
It’s interesting to see these national media types talk about how Bielema “was successful recruiting players to his system and coaching them up at Wisconsin.” The implication is he can do the same thing at Arkansas.
In reality, he couldn’t do it at Wisconsin today.
College football has changed dramatically in the last five years, especially on offense. Time of possession, controlling the ball and balance have been replaced with run-pass options, scoring points and taking what the defense gives you.
We’ll hear in the offseason how the Hogs scored the second most points on Alabama this year. True, but the last 13 points came against the backups. Remember, the Tide led 35-17 at halftime of that game and still won by three touchdowns coasting in the second half.
Bielema is not at the crossroads in this offseason. That was last year after the win over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl.
They went backwards this season.
And it’s hard to find a rational way to see improvement next year. The Hogs will play two nonconference games, then get their bye week followed by 10 straight weeks of play, eight against league opponents.
Bielema’s seat is hot now.
This time next year could see flames.