Fayetteville, Ark. – Now that the mystery has unfolded about who will be the next head coach at Arkansas the biggest recruiting job Bret Bielema must take on is keeping current players on board for an eerily dwindling number of Razorback scholarship players.
Twenty-four seniors were listed on the Arkansas squad going into the 2012 college football season. Only one of those seniors, fullback Kiero Small, will have an opportunity to return due to a medical redshirt given for this season.
Small has already stated he will return for his senor season. The bigger problem is keeping some of the current Razorback players with NFL talent that are juniors on for one more year as the Arkansas roster has been downsized over the last two years due to graduation, suspensions, transfers, and players not working out within the old system. Any loss of soon to be senior leadership could place the Hogs even further behind the proverbial eight ball in 2013.
Former Wisconsin Badger players and current Arkansas Razorback players have all referred to Bielema as a “player’s coach.” Having sent 22 players to the NFL since 2007, three more than what the Razorbacks have accomplished over that time frame, perhaps current players will jump at the opportunity to receive another year of quality coaching under Bielema to improve their draft status instead of jumping into the unknown waters of professional football?
The biggest concerns for “Coach B” are seniors to be running back Knile Davis, center Travis Swanson, and guard Alvin Bailey.
Bailey spent most of the spring and fall camp in the dog house of former interim head coach John L. Smith and offensive line coach Chris Klenakis.
In 2010 Bailey and Swanson were named to the Freshman All-SEC Team under Klenakis’ direction in the Pistol offense. A change in offensive strategy with a different offensive line coach could do wonders for Bailey in 2013.
Swanson earned second-team All-SEC honors as center behind Remington Award winner Barrett Jones (Alabama) this season. Centers in the NFL are tough to replace once entrenched. A heady center with three years of starting experience in the SEC for a new starting quarterback and new head coach for the Hogs is priceless.
If the Bielema can retain Bailey and Swanson the loss of starters David Hurd, Jason Peacock, and Tyler Deacon would not be as dramatic with Brey Cook returning for his junior season.
Running back Knile Davis might be equally as important of a coup for Bielema to keep on the Hill for one more year as Bailey and Swanson.
Davis has All-SEC potential as evident by his 2010 season when he led all conference running backs in total yards gained. 2012 was not as kind to Davis in the statistical department as 2010 especially after being tabbed a preseason All-SEC first team running back.
Davis was second on the team in total rushing yards but fell way below an All-SEC season or even a 1,000 yard season finishing with 377 total yards in 10 games with two rushing touchdowns.
Should Davis leave the Hogs will lose three tailbacks with starting experience; graduating seniors Dennis Johnson, Ronnie Wingo, Jr., and Davis. Coach B will be left with true sophomore Jonathan Williams as the lone Arkansas running back with notable experience in 2012.
Without Davis, all of the pressures of a full SEC season in the backfield would ride on true sophomore Nate Holmes, redshirt sophomore Kody Walker, and Williams.
Good news for Bielema is redshirt sophomore quarterback Brandon Allen has stated that he will stay on the Hogs roster regardless if his father is retained on staff or not. This leaves Coach B with two quarterbacks with SEC experience to battle for the starting position in 2013.
Defensive end Chris Smith will receive his NFL evaluation but has stated that he will more than likely return next year.
For a team that is stockpiled with potential NFL players, Tyler Wilson and Cobi Hamilton to name a couple of more along with Bailey, Swanson, Smith, Davis, and Johnson, one can see how Razorback Nation was hopeful of a big season leading into the 2012 college football season. Let’s hope that Coach Bielema can recruit Swanson, Bailey, Smith, and Davis to stay on the Razorback roster through 2013.