Home Run Hire

In his weekly recruiting column for Hawgs Illustrated that was updated on Friday, Dudley E. Dawson chats with a several of the state's top high school coaches to get their take on Arkansas' hiring of Bret Bielema.

Several of the state's top high school head football coaches voiced their approval Thursday for the hiring of new Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema.

One of those is Warren head coach Bo Hembree, whose program has certainly sent a lot of talent to the Razorbacks in recent years.

"I think it is a great hire," Hembree said. "He is a great head coach and you can tell that by his record at Wisconsin and how he goes about his business.

"He also brings a type of hard-nosed football that you have to have at Arkansas if you want to compete with Alabama and LSU, who just line up and get after it," Hembree added. "Now Arkansas will have that mentality and I see great things in the future for the Razorbacks.

"From watching the press conference, he also looks like a guy that commands respect, but will be someone that you can talk to and will be fun and comfortable to be around," Hembree said. "I think he is just what Arkansas needed and it is a home run hire."

Pulaski Academy head coach Kevin Kelly, whose tight end Hunter Henry is a current Razorback 2013 commit, had similar sentiments.

"I think it was a home run hire and he commands respect for what has done while at Wisconsin," Kelly said.

"I've never been around him and I was surprised that we hired him because he was just not a name that was on the radar and because his style is just not what we have recruited to at Arkansas recently," Kelly added.

"But then again, this could be just what we need to get over the hump," Kelly continued. "Like anything else, coaches are judged by results on the field and that is what will be the ultimate judge of just how great a hire this is."

Bielema called all of the Razorback commits on Wednesday night and that obviously included Henry, a four-star tight end who caught 107 passes for 1,4449 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.

Henry, who pledged to Arkansas in July and took an official visit to Alabama in November, was no doubt about the four Wisconsin tight ends that played under Bielema that are now playing in the NFL.

Those four are Owen Daniels and Garret Graham of the Houston Texans, Travis Beckum of the New York Giants and Lance Kendricks of the St. Louis Rams.

Former Rogers standout Jake Byrne is another former Wisconsin tight end that was in training camp with the New Orleans Saints this past August.

""Hunter is very smart and wise beyond his year and wanted a chance to talk with Coach Bielema before he made any comment," Kelly said. "He got that opportunity last night and was very happy with what he heard from him. It looks great there."

Fayetteville head coach Daryl Patton, fresh off a second straight Class 7A state championship, got to meet Bielema on Wednesday.

"I got a chance to talk with him on Wednesday and he was very down to earth," Patton said. "He was a proven winner at Wisconsin and is a guy that commands respect. You can tell that from listening to his former players."

Arkansas has three commitments from Fayetteville in quarterback Austin Allen, linebacker Brooks Ellis and safety Alex Brignoni.

"He is going to bring a hard-nosed physical defense and a hard-nosed running game with a flair on offense with the quarterbacks and wide receivers," Patton added. "He is a player's coach, but one that has discipline and demands you do thing the right way. I think it is a great hire for Arkansas."

North Little Rock head coach Brad Bolding is excited about the switch as well.

"I think Arkansas has done a great job in hiring Coach Bielema and I am excited about what he is going to bring to the state," Bolding said. "He plays a hard-nosed brand of football, which is what we do here at North Little Rock. I am looking forward to talking with him and picking his brain about what he has done to make him so successful."

Bolding, whose star tailback Altee Tenepnny is an Alabama commit, thinks that you will see Arkansas high school football mirror Bielema's balanced style.

"I think Arkansas high school football got into a lot of the spread here in the last decade, but I think we will see a lot of teams going back to a balanced attack now that he will be leading the Razorbacks," Bolding said. "I am excited about that."

He's also excited about what he thinks might be a change in how Arkansas recruits.

"I don't mean this as something to down Arkansas, but it is amazing how Alabama recruits with the head coach and assistants coming and staying as long as you want and be willing to share anything with you," Bolding said. "I have great respect for (Arkansas assistant coach) Tim Horton and he gives us all the time in the world, but that has not necessarily been the case with the head coach.

"I think Coach Bielema is the kind of personal guy who is going to be willing to spend the time with us and our kids," Bolding added. "I am looking forward to it."

Tenpenny - who talked to Bielema Thursday night - will officially visit Alabama on Jan. 11-13 and Arkansas Jan. 18-20 and may visit Oklahoma State.

"Altee was trying to be very respectful and not cause a scene, but he was not really interested in going to Arkansas with the former head coach and style they were running," Bolding said. "But Coach Bielema's style is perfect for him, just as the Alabama system is. That opens things back up for him. I think it helps Arkansas a lot and it is going to be interesting to see what he does in the end."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories