State of the Hogs: Leadership

Leadership is the key component as Arkansas drives to snap a losing streak. It will take time, but it may happen sooner than some suspect. Here's a commentary from HI.com publisher Clay Henry.

I think the major donors of the Arkansas program -- that goes as far as the school and the athletics program -- are on board with Bret Bielema, this football coach. I think they understand that he's the right guy and he's going to do fine as he fills his roster and develops his program.

The overall talent is not as far behind as it might look. There is a need at some positions, particularly on defense at linebacker. Brooks Ellis might develop into a leader and as he understands the scheme, I think he's going to be a big-time player. There is just a tiny bit of a glimpse of what he can do, too. More linebackers need to be added. Things change when you have players at linebacker, in any defense.

I also think the development will continue in the offensive backfield. Quarterback needs some help around him, but he'll get better as it happens. The best play makers on this offense are freshmen and sophomores and the best linemen are freshmen, outside of Travis Swanson. As the offensive line is developed and more big-time players are added, it will be the engine that drives this team.

But the key to the future is continued development of leadership and it starts at the top. I think Bret Bielema was the right hire 11 months ago and is the right hire now.

I get tickled when I hear some say he needs to change his scheme to fit the players on hand. What players? What scheme is it that would work with this talent and in this league? I don't see that. I see a need to recruit and fill gaps. I see a task that he built for with great recruiters throughout his staff. I see a need to develop what is here, the young players that are thrown into the toughest division in football.

I think those that invested in the school understand what is going on. I think the major givers do understand what is needed. Most of those understand leadership is so important because their companies would not be solid without it.

I see the things that are being built on this campus and they excite me. I see the future as far as construction as being keys to the future of the University of Arkansas. It's everywhere you see. It's not just football, basketball, track, baseball or just in sports. It's throughout the campus.

I am not a big fan of FOI requests or worry about who shredded what. I do understand that there are many newspapers that make their living with stories about such things. They do make fascinating reads at times.

But what I see at the University of Arkansas right now is a great campus and the athletics program is only going to get stronger over the next few years. It's one of the big reasons Bret Bielema came to Arkansas, to get his hands on resources to build something strong.

Right now, it's not much fun to watch the football team, in an eight-game losing streak, worst in school history. Losing is a horrible thing. But it will turn around in the future. There will be winning and fun again. It will take some time. It will take recruiting and it will take leadership. I think you will see eventually that Bret Bielema is going to make it fun again.

I've had a difficult week reading some of the things I've seen on message boards or listening to talk radio. I've been limping around after knee surgery and then sit still to read some that have written at HI.com some horrible things about players, coaches and administrators. Some of this hurts me worse than the pain from a surgeon's knife. There is no medication made for hurtful words like I've seen thrown about towards these coaches or players.

It is easy to do when things are at low flow. I do appreciate those that remain positive and understand that their great school will be strong again if they remain patient.

It's clear that some prefer just to tear down. It bothers me to read it. They get their thrills out of making fun of others and chasing after them as hard as they can possibly go. It's the nature of what message boards are at times.

These negative times will pass. I will say that it's at this point that strength is needed. It's a time when an understanding of the task is needed. It's not easy.

Arkansas folks are a proud bunch. I'm proud to live here and know that it's tough on everyone right now. But I do know that a day is coming when Arkansas will be competing for the top. It's not as far away as some today think.

As they say, hang tough. It's going to get better.

I know that the leadership at the UA is going to hang tough. Bret Bielema will hang tough. I see a fighter who knows only his way and that's to keep fighting and to keep working. He'll get there.

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