Recruiting Challenges

ESPN college football writer Chris L:ow was the guest speaker at Wednesday's Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club and noted that Arkansas' push back to being a contender needs to happen on the recruiting trail first.

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has to win on the recruiting trail before it can win on the football field according to ESPN college football writer Chris Low.

Low, who handles the SEC for ESPN, was the guest speaker Wednesday afternoon at the last Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club meeting of the season.

"You have got to get those (high-caliber) guys," Low said. "Can you get those guys consistently? I know they are working on it and I like the nucleus of some of those type guys that they were able to get last year.

"But for Bret, to get to a point where you can beat an Alabama, an LSU and get to where you can win SEC championships you are going to have to stack several classes on top of each other," Low added.

"You have nucleus guys like Alex Collins, Denver Kirkland, Hunter Henry," Low continued while mentioned some true freshmen. "That is a good place to start, but it is going to take a lot more."

Low said the question he gets most from Arkansas fans is can Bielema win in the SEC playing the way he played that made his teams so successful in the Big Ten.

"My answer is yes, but he has got to start beating those teams on the recruiting trail," Low said. "The teams he has to beat on the field, he has to start winning those battles on the recruiting field. You just can't lose those guys."

Low pointed right to Springdale Har-Ber defensive tackle Josh Frazier (6-4, 310), who has several SEC West schools battling USC for him.

"You look right here adjacent to where we are in Springdale – the Frazier kid," Low said. "He is the kind of defensive tackle I am talking about. Who is chasing him? Auburn is chasing him, Alabama is chasing him and Texas A&M is chasing him.

"That is perfect example," Low said. "Those are the kind of kids that you have got to get. You have got to beat people on the recruiting trail for those types of difference makers that you have to bat on the field."

Low said that he was here for the Alabama game three years ago and knows Arkansas people want those type big games to return.

"I was here in 2010 for the Alabama game and I still think that is one of the greatest environments that I've been at in the last few years covering SEC football," Low said. "It was an electric environment that day and the Hogs came up short. Just from all day long on campus and that stadium.

"Obviously there are bigger stadiums, but I am not sure I have been in one that was buzzing the way what one was that day," Low said.

"I know you look at this program and you say ‘when are we going to get back there and have a chance to play for something in that environment?'" Low said. "That's probably been the most frustrating thing about the last two years."

He notes that there will likely be some movement of teams in the SEC the next couple of years.

"The thing I would probably say about the SEC more than anything is that it is constantly changing," Low said. "I think we have seen teams – and the last couple years it is even moreso – I think this is always going to be a league where you have to play good defense and be able to run the football.

"More and more teams now are taking a no-huddle approach and running as many plays as you can and avoid the defensive coaches schemes," Low added.

Low noted that he thinks most coaches admit they might go to the hurry-up offense soon and said even Alabama's Nick Saban has said he may do so in the future.

. "I think you are going to see 80 percent of teams playing that fast-paced, no-huddle, hurry-up offense," Low said. "Coach Bielema is one of the guys that doesn't like to play that way."

But Low also noted that the SEC's last seven national champions have been buoyed by their defense.

"If you can't play defense, at least defense a little bit, then you are not going to consistently win, certainly not at a high level," Low said.

He is not surprised that Arkansas' defense has struggled this season, referring back to the lack of defensive recruiting under head coach Bobby Petrino.

"I got to know several of the guys on the Arkansas staff when Bobby was here and I can tell you that they were worried – even before the whole motorcycle deal and Bobby got fired – they were worried defensively if the personnel was going to be good enough on defense to sort of sustain what they had," Low said.

"I think they sort of saw this coming," Low added. "They just had not recruited well enough on that side of the ball. You saw it last year and you see it this year."

Chris Low

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