SEC Football Head Coach Evaluation: Arkansas Razorbacks’ Bret Bielema

4 of 4

Nov 22, 2014; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema after the game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas defeated Mississippi 30-0. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

It depends on what you are looking for from Arkansas whether or not you give Bielema the thumbs up.  What Bielema can build at Arkansas is a team that consistently is in the 8-9 win region and competes for a division or conference title in cycles.

The way Bielema has set up shop Arkansas will allow him to recruit elite lineman and running backs.  A few years ago that, and a decent defense, would have made Arkansas a perennial contender in the SEC West.  But the landscape of the SEC West has changed.

With the offenses that Auburn, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and even Alabama run, there will be games Arkansas must play catch-up.  In years where Bielema has a veteran quarterback, like Brandon Allen in 2015, the Razorbacks have a shot at making big comebacks.

Bielema’s system will rarely draw elite quarterback prospects to Arkansas, however.  His quarterbacks will need time and experience to become true threats in his offense.  As a result, Bielema and the Razorbacks will be on a cyclical pattern that allows them to compete for division titles only when they have a seasoned veteran at quarterback.

If Arkansas were to win a conference title or two, though, more talent would be willing to come and buy-in to Bielama’s system.  That would be putting the wagon before the horse, though.

If having a shot at winning the SEC West every few years is enough for you, Bielema gets the thumbs up.  If you expect him to compete on a national stage annually, Bielema gets the thumbs down.

I give Bielema the Southbound and Down thumbs up.  Arkansas is a proud program, but one that has not been consistently relevant since, GASP, Houston Nutt was in Fayetteville.  Nutt spent 10 years at Arkansas and won at least a share of the SEC West three times.

If Bielema can match Nutt’s level of success, he will be ok for a few seasons.  What eventually cost Nutt, and could cost Bielema as well, was an inability to consistently compete at the highest levels and 0 SEC Titles.  Winning a minimum of 8-9 games a year and adding an SEC Championship could lead to Bielema becoming the Mark Richt of the SEC West.

Or he could jump to the NFL.  Such is life in football.

More from Southbound and Down