Athlon Sports had SEC coaches comment anonymously on other teams’ prospects this season. Said coaches were not high on Arkansas. They found little fault with Bielema, blaming the poor foundation left in the wake of Bobby Petrino’s departure. A couple coaches hammered their former colleague for “bad recruiting.”
“They are going to be terrible. What they are doing now, it’s the product of bad recruiting. They have a long way to go. That’s nothing against the new coach (Bret Bielema). But they are going to be terrible in Year 1.”
“They are going to be slim in a lot of spots. It’s going to take them three years to get a good foundation. It’s a product of bad recruiting — which is typical of a Bobby Petrino school. It’s the same thing that happened at Louisville that got Steve Kragthorpe fired. Petrino didn’t leave him any players. It’s the same thing at Arkansas. They have no players on defense. Petrino would load up on offense and leave the cupboard bare. That’s why he can’t ever get over the hump.”
The state of the program may be accurate, though the reasoning is a bit unfair. A coach recruits to use players himself, not to leave a versatile, well-stocked program for the next guy. Petrino had no inkling he would be leaving. So, this is sort of like switching artists half-way through a painting and having the second artist complain he couldn’t finish it the way he would have preferred.
Petrino also recruited for what he was going to win with, his offense. Most coaches, in 2013, are going to be specialists on one side of the ball who delegate responsibility elsewhere. A major difference between Petrino and, for instance, Urban Meyer has been location. When you are coach at Florida or Ohio State, resources and access are not issues. You have elite talent in your back yard. You can hire a top-notch staff of recruiters to scour the country for future NFL players on the other side of the ball. You get your foot in the door anywhere.
At the jobs Petrino has had, Arkansas and Louisville, resources and access are major issues. You have to prioritize. Offense is what was going to give Arkansas a competitive advantage. Throwing everything into D-Line recruiting would have given the Razorbacks a lesser version of what his SEC opponents had. Petrino would have been Dan Mullen.
It’s also important to remember: the strategy worked. Petrino averaged 10 wins per season in four years at Louisville, a program that had two 10-win seasons ever before hiring him. He won 21 games his final two seasons at Arkansas, at a program with one 10-win year in the previous twenty.
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