New Staffers: Rhoads Brings Passion, Mitchell Calm

Bret Bielema's two new staffers met the media on Monday. Paul Rhoads exudes passion, Reggie Mitchell brings a calm veteran style.

Bret Bielema gave the scouting report on his two new hires on Monday afternoon. Paul Rhoads brings passion, Reggie Mitchell exudes calmness.

That's what was most obvious when Bielema's new staffers followed the Arkansas head coach to the podium for their first meeting Monday with the Arkansas media.

Rhoads has a great reputation for wearing his emotions on his sleeve. If you want confirmation, go to YouTube and watch any number of videos on Rhoads from his time at Iowa State. The contrast is Mitchell, cool and collected as he visited with media before and after the trip to the microphone on Monday at the Fred Smith Center.

"Reggie brought a demeanor of calmness to our running backroom," Bielema said about the week he's seen Mitchell operate at Arkansas as offensive backfield coach.

"I'm not saying that it's not good the other way, but the last two (running backs coaches, Joel Thomas and Jemal Singleton) both were younger and had an edge that comes from youth.

"I thought our running back room needed that maturity to it. Reggie brought that."

It was interesting that Rhoads had just been on the Arkansas campus to watch his son compete in a track meet. He and his wife also used the trip to catch up with old friends. Rhoads spent two hours with athletic director Jeff Long. They had worked together at Pittsburgh. He also caught up with Robb Smith, a friend from their days as rivals in Iowa.

That was well before Clay Jennings had taken the job at Texas to create the opening Rhoads filled. In fact, coaching for Bielema did not come up on the trip. But it did as soon as Jennings left. Rhoads called Smith first, then there was an interview with Bielema.

"I knew it was the right fit," Rhoads said. "And, so did my wife. We'd just been here and she didn't even need to come back (for the interview). She already knew it was right."

What was right was everything, from working for Bielema, to the fit as secondary coach with Smith, to all of the facilities that help make the message of the head coach on academics come to life.

"There is a complete dedication and commitment to the student-athlete that I think is extremely important," Rhoads said. "That starts with Bret. The team GPA is just shy of 3.0 and that's impressive. They do things right.

"It's a great fit as far as the philosophy with Robb (as defensive coordinator). It's a mesh."
Rhoads was making his second trip to Arkansas. He said his first came when his wife joined him on a trip to an assistant coaches conference in Dallas and they used it as a chance to camp. There was a stop near Fayetteville and a tour of the campus.

"That was in the 1990s," he said. "I don't remember where we camped. But I do remember the campus. When we make trips, we always try to see a Division I campus."

Conversely, Mitchell had never been in the state of Arkansas until making the trip to Fayetteville for the interview two weeks ago. He was blown away by Fayetteville and the campus. He said he didn't know what to expect.

"I remember thinking, I want to get my camera phone out and take some video," he said. "And, then I thought, I'm on an interview, maybe I shouldn't do that. But it as impressive. It was exciting and over whelming."

Mitchell said he knew Bielema, too, dating back to their days coaching in the Big 10. Mitchell's background includes Michigan State and Illinois. He's been at Kansas the last 16 years. He's also got ties with Dan Enos, the UA offensive coordinator. Enos followed Mitchell as running back coach at Michigan State and they've become good friends through the years.

"I played at Central Michigan," Mitchell said. "So when Dan went there as head coach, I'd text him when I saw something I liked. We just have been friends for a long time. I called him when the running back job opened up. I wanted to recommend someone and he said he'd recommended me. I said, 'What?' It all happened so fast."

There was immediate interest. Mitchell was on a short vacation after signing day.

"I was in Pompano Beach," he said of his three-day Florida trip. "I was just getting away. I knew I needed to get to Fayetteville. I knew I was interested."

The trip to campus answered one question.

"I had recruited Ronnie Wingo for Illinois," he said. "I couldn't believe that a kid in St. Louis would come to Arkansas. I got here and I understand."

Mitchell will have a transition with a two-back offense and a tight end. He said the last few years, he's not had to draw a tight end in a formation on the board.

"I can do it," he said. "I've done it before. Charlie Weiss ran a two-back. But I did tell the guys that I'd have to learn how to draw in a tight end, too."

There does not seem to be much of a transition for Rhoads. He said Smith's defensive scheme is similar to what he's operated from as a base.

"I'm excited to have my own position room," said Rhoads, a head coach or a coordinator for nearly two decades. "I missed that interaction with players in a room as a head coach.

"With this, I'm getting back to the grass roots. I've been calling plays or making decisions for a program as a head coach for the last 16 years. I look forward to getting my room back."

Could there be some things that he learned in defending the spreads in the Big 12 that might help Smith stop all of those SEC West spreads?

"There is knowledge of that," Rhoads said. "There is knowledge on how people hurt us and the steps that had to be taken over the last seven years (as ISU head coach). There is just some background. I might see some things and help address and fix them."

Would that mean a preference for press coverage at cornerback? Does Rhoads like press?

"I'm in favor of press if we have the people to play press," he said. "Against certain aspects of the spread, you have to be able to play press and have to play it well."

Rhoads said there needs to be variety in the coverages.

"There are times you want to be on the line," he said. "At times, you want to be loose and what they call here bait off. I'm sure I'll brought up to speed on the terminology."

Bielema said the last two months since the start of the spring semester have allowed some learning of the terminology for players, something he calls Hoganese. The NCAA allows more hands on work with coaches, especially in the meeting room. There was a question about the way transfer quarterback Ricky Town has handled the learning. Bielema said a few weeks ago that Town was behind during bowl practices.

"Ricky has made a lot of progress," Bielema said. "He's an intelligent kid."

There was some talk about the way the quarterback room has changed with the graduation of Brandon Allen.

"Dan (Enos) told me that it's very anti social in there now," Bielema said. "They all are smelling blood."

By that, Bielema meant that everyone is in a competitive spirit with the job opening.

Bielema told of positive developments in the offseason workouts, but did mention an ongoing academic battle for defensive end Jamario Bell. Along with Dre Greenlaw and C.J. O'Grady, Bell was suspended for one week at the start of the semester for academic shortcomings. All three have been re-instated.

"Dre has all Bs and one C," Bielema said. "C.J. is clear on academics, too. Jamario has a long way to go. He's back with us, but he could be one of the greatest achievements we've had or the least because he just has so much ability. He has a great appearance, but he has to take care of academics."

Bielema said redshirt freshman Josh Allen is currently on academic suspension from team workouts. He's been moved to the defensive line. Bielema called Allen "undersized" for the offensive line.

Bielema had been careful not to talk about offensive line position moves a few weeks ago. He wanted new O-line coach Kurt Anderson to finish a full evaluation. He said that's been done. Deion Malone is at guard, Frank Ragnow is working at center and guard, Brian Wallace is at left tackle and Hjalte Froholdt is at guard with plans to give the Danish sophomore a tutorial at center, too.

"Deion has jumped out," Bielema said. "Very impressive. He's very attentive to detail.

"To say Froholdt looks like a natural at the inside positions of the offensive line would be an understatement. He's caught on inside.

"BWallace is a left tackle and Colton Jackson has made strides there. We are going to see if Froholdt can snap."

Along with Malone, the other mid-term enrollment came from freshman McTelvin "Sosa" Agim.

"He's very, very talented," Bielema said. "He wants to be taught. He's all eyes and ears. We are going to have to work on his conditioning. His lungs are taxed with that 20 pounds that he's added."

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