Arkansas needs better players — and coach Bret Bielema is taking steps to get them
With your bacon, have some Hogs for Breakfast. It’s SEC Country’s weekday column and roundup on all things Arkansas. Opinion, numbers, inane babble and more! And now with ironic exclamation points. There is no place like it on the web.
Bret Bielema knows for Arkansas to take the next step — to elevate from the middling section of the SEC — the Razorbacks need one simple thing.
It isn’t that Arkansas has bad ones. Far from it. Top-30 recruiting classes are, by definition, better than the classes nearly 100 other schools. And Bielema isn’t exactly a slouch at coaching them up. Heck, his entire career at Wisconsin was littered with recruiting classes inferior to those he’s compiled at Arkansas, yet his Badgers played in seven straight bowl games, including three straight Rose Bowls. (He did not coach the team in the third Rose Bowl, following the 2012 season, as he had already accepted the Arkansas job before the game.)
Of course, you see that caveat.
The Big Ten isn’t the SEC, even if it has gotten better the last couple seasons. Those top-30 classes often are only ninth-or-so best in the SEC. Sometimes more like 12th. Arkansas’ players are better than most every team’s in the country … except the ones in its own conference.
Bielema knows this. It’s simple and it isn’t. Complex and not so complex.
Landing 247Sports’ No. 10 junior college recruit in the 2018 class goes a long way toward helping Bielema get Arkansas to where he wants them. The Razorbacks did that on Sunday, Father’s Day.
But landing Dave Williams takes them even further.
Williams is a graduate transfer from South Carolina. He has SEC credentials. He’s established. No projection. No “what he could be.” Williams has shown it. And while he isn’t going to be Arkansas’ top running back — that job belongs to Devwah Whaley — he provides experience behind the starter. The only other running backs on the roster are freshmen. Potential-laden freshman, but freshmen nonetheless.
Some think this is a make-or-break year for Bielema. Personally, I doubt that. But his players will go a long way in determining what comes next.
Welcome new Arkansas coach Nate Thompson
That didn’t take long, did it?
Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn must have known very quickly who he wanted to replace Tony Vitello. It took about a week for it to happen.
Nate Thompson is the Diamond Hogs’ new assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. Thompson was most recently an assistant at Missouri State and replaces Vitello, who was hired as coach of Tennessee earlier this month. In fact, Vitello’s departure was announced June 7. Thompson’s hiring was announced June 16.
Barely a week.
Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn. (Courtesy Arkansas athletics)
Arkansas spent its last weekend of baseball going against Thompson’s Missouri State team in the Fayetteville Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Fans and media — and everyone not in the Razorbacks locker room — were wondering about a Missouri State-Arkansas rivalry. Van Horn said nope. He felt like he knew Missouri State coach Keith Guttin rather well and there was a measure of respect between the two men.
Well, Guttin and Van Horn had to have spoken for Thompson to come aboard. And if I were a betting man, conversations were had well beforehand about possibilities.
Gotta love college baseball.
At least one current Arkansas golfer will join two former Razorbacks golfers in this week’s LPGA Walmart NW Arkansas Championship up in Rogers. Stacy Lewis is an LPGA staple, one of the best on the Tour. Gabriela Lopez is a young up-and-comer. Junior Alana Uriell will join them, having earned sponsor’s exemption. Sophomores Maria Fassi and Kaylee Benton will play in the Monday qualifier for a chance to make it, too.
Razorbacks signee Josh Paul has changed his focus. He’s now laser-pointed on an Arkansas career, writes our Jason Kersey.
Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas
A good news one. This is pretty awesome.
State jobless rate falls to 3.4% in May » https://t.co/sXhiJozYzr #ArkDG pic.twitter.com/8cZsQUwcBo
— AR Democrat-Gazette (@ArkansasOnline) June 17, 2017
Thank you, whichever politician you want for that.
Skip Breakfast? C’mon. It’s too important. Catch up with previous versions here.
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