Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema hires away Washington Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian's running backs coach Joel Thomas on Monday. Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas Football: Bielema Hires Running Backs Coach


Fayetteville, Ark. – University of Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema added the last piece of his offensive coaching puzzle on Monday when Joel Thomas agreed to be the new running backs coach for the Razorbacks. Thomas comes to Arkansas after four years on staff with the Washington Huskies as running backs coach and associate head coach.

Thomas was a two-time All-Big West Conference running back for Idaho (1995-1998) out of Port Angeles, Wash., before becoming a graduate assistant under Jim Chaney at Purdue in 2000 and 2001. In 2002 and 2003 he was on staff with the Louisville Cardinals as running backs coach serving his last season on staff under Bobby Petrino before returning to Idaho as co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach.

By 2006 Thomas had returned to Purdue for three seasons before being hired as the Washington Huskies running backs coach, reuniting him with Nick Holt (Idaho), the Huskies then defensive coordinator and 2012 recruiting coordinator for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

In each of Thomas’ four years at Washington he guided a Huskies’ tailback to 1,000 plus yards seasons. In 2012 sophomore running back Bishop Sankey ran for 1,439 yards with 16 scores. Sankey was also a threat out of the backfield hauling in 33 passes for 249 yards. Sankey ended the 2012 college football season as the nation’s No. 16 leading tailback in total rushing yards, finishing fifth in the Pac-12.

From 2009 through 2011 Thomas helped running back Chris Polk (Philadelphia Eagles) become one of the Huskies all-time greats accumulating 4,016 of his 4,049 career rushing yards as Polk’s running backs coach. The feat marked only the second time in school history a tailback had rushed for more than 1,000 yards in three straight seasons and only the seventh player to do so in the history of the Pac-12 conference.

Bielema has not officially announced the hiring of his linebackers coach but has let it be known that a hire has been made and said coach will be announced after his bowl game. Bielema has not hired a secondary coach or a special teams coordinator to date.

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