Bret Bielema and Gus Malzahn had very different seasons as first-year SEC head coaches. The Tigers had one of the biggest turnarounds in college football, going from 3-9 to 12-2 and SEC Champions, and the Hogs, well, lost nine straight games to close 2013.
The AJC asked Bielema what the difference was between his and Malzahn’s first year, and why Malzahn had success faster.
“Obviously, this is my first transition as a head coach,” he told the paper. “It’s something I wanted to do free willingly. I wanted to do it. I wanted to experience it. But I knew coming in, what I was going to ask our players was dramatically different from what they were used to.
“If you get a team with a new coach coming in that was very similar to what they’ve done in the past, you could have an Auburn situation. You know, Gus was part of three out of those five recruiting classes (at Auburn as an assistant and head coach), know what I mean? There were huge transitional benefits there.”
The recruiting classes Malzahn inherited from Gene Chizik were top-five caliber. Malzahn was part of the success of those classes, and players were recruited to fit his style and scheme. The problem Chizik had was developing the talent on campus and maximizing the personnel in the appropriate manner. We knew before last season started that Auburn would have the biggest revival of any of the four new head coaches; little did we know how big it would actually be.
In contrast, Bielema started from scratch, with a new scheme and a totally different ideology and mentality, not to mention the mess he inherited. So, it’s going to take time rebuilding the program with Bielema, who has a track record of proven development.
The question then becomes, “How long will it take him to do it? Can he win a championship at Arkansas?”
Scheme plays a large part in success, and Malzahn’s scheme is conducive for quicker turnarounds and a larger margin of error, but you have to have the players. With Arkansas running a scheme that’s so similar to Alabama and LSU, it all comes down to the players.
Will Bielema be able to recruit the Jimmys and the Joes who can win him a championship in the brutal SEC West?
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