Should Be Easy Getting Hogs Back to Bowl Game Next Season
Bret Bielema, the new Razorback football coach from Iowa/Wisconsin, is adequate enough to get the Hogs back to a bowl game as soon as next season, so keep your calendar clear for a mid to late December trip somewhere.
There are so many bowls these days that it’s kind of hard to not make one. Nine SEC teams went to a bowl this year, and it’s hard for me to believe the Razorbacks are not permanently in the top nine in the conference.
In order to be in the SEC and not make a bowl game, your program has to really run off the tracks, such as if the head coach wrecks his motorcycle with a blonde on the back and then a wacky interim coach takes over.
The schedule for next season does get more difficult, though, with Alabama and LSU on the road. Not that Fayetteville has provided a great home-field advantage against those teams, but it’s all the more difficult to beat them at Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge. Yet, if you’re going to lose better to put those on the road, and bring home people that you have a chance of beating.
Still, I think the Razorbacks win enough games to get to a bowl game somehow. Goodnight, the team won four this season and they were horrible. They just needed to find a way to beat Louisiana-Monroe and Rutgers and would have been back bowling.
Next season, the Razorbacks need only win their four non-conference games against Louisiana-Lafayette, Samford, Southern Miss, and Rutgers, and then only need to find two victories in conference to get the six magical wins needed to go bowling.
I’m marking Ole Miss on the road as target number one and Auburn at home in Fayetteville as two strong possibilities. Losing to Rutgers again could be devastating, though.
I suspect there will be growing pains next season as the Program changes systems under new leadership. Bobby Petrino, with his offense-only approach, got 10 and 11 wins. Bielema will put an emphasis on defense, which is a huge departure from the last four seasons, and you have to wonder if there will be enough guys in the right positions to pull off the needed six wins?
For years, Petrino robbed from the defense to build his magnificent offense. You may ask how did he do that?
It always started with recruiting. I disagree with those who say Petrino was a bad recruiter. He got really good players. The Razorbacks had talent -- it was just all on the offense because it’s all they recruited. The roster always had a multitude of receivers, and having so many at that position left other areas on the defense deficient.
Petrino was also not above taking players off defense and moving them to offense, or even for that matter taking your second-best quarterback and moving him to receiver.
The offense was loaded and the fans loved it. The Razorback offense was fun to watch. There was depth everywhere on that side of the ball. The defense, on the other hand, was paper thin. When you had a player go down like Tevin Mitchell or when linebackers graduated, it got ridiculous trying to replace them.
Now you are about to witness something much different. The emphasis is switching to the defense. It’s difficult with an 85-man roster and it makes the balancing act all the more difficult.
The math driving it for those who like detail: Most coaches, at the minimum, like to have three players at each position, which takes up 66 spots. This leaves you with 19 to use at your discretion. You have to have specialists in the kicking game so with the punter, field-goal kicker, deep snapper, and holder, that puts you at 15. You also often have an extra kicker taking you to 14 left because you have to have a backup. Most coaches also have a fourth quarterback. You never hear or see of him because he runs the scout team and is expendable, but he often wants a scholarship. Now you’re at 13 left. The same is also true for running back – 12 left.
Coaches also love running different formations on offense so the three at each position does not hold because sometimes you need five wide outs on the field, other times you need a fullback, and even other times you need two tight ends so you have to have more depth than just three at those positions. This can take you down to six left at your discretion. Then the defense also likes different formations with extra defensive backs or extra linemen on the field. This effectively takes you to zero, and it’s not like the NFL where you can drop and add from your roster.
I have not included any specialty players on special teams like gunners or return men. They now have to come out of your existing 85-man roster. It’s difficult balancing the roster, and you can see how one side of the ball can be cannibalized as it was under Petrino. It becomes a matter of philosophy, and a bust in recruiting a bad player on the side you are cannibalizing can be extremely damaging.
The old belief was that you build your team by putting your best player at quarterback and then your next best 11 players on defense. Petrino turned that on its head, but all that is about to change.
The last question that you now have to ask is, will the offense be robbed to build the defense, and do you now end up with just one George Wilson at receiver?
Send your breakdown on coaching philosophies to email@example.com.