With great optimism and enthusiasm, former Iowa defensive lineman and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is attempting to put his mark on an Arkansas program that could use a little TLC. After a year deflating year, Bielema was the surprise hire of December and provided a small ray of sunshine to the Razorback nation. Comfortably in his office now, he feels confident that he has assembled a staff that buys into his vision for Arkansas’ future. But, as is always the case, the proof will come once the pads slap in practice.
2012 Record: 4-8 (2-6 SEC)
Spring Practice: The Red-White Spring Game will be held April 20th in Fayetteville, which will be Bielema’s debut on the Razorback sideline.
2012 in review: The Bobby Patrino scandal left a long and ugly stain on a season that began with high expectations and a pre-season top-10 ranking. John L. Smith returned to Fayetteville only be mired in a story of personal bankruptcy and staggering debt while quarterback Tyler Wilson suffered a concussion and did not play against Alabama, a game the Razorbacks lost 52-0. There were few bright spots.
Biggest Hole to Fill: Wilson, who was projected as a potential No.1 overall pick in the NFL draft prior to his less-than-spectacular senior season, still remains the team’s big question mark heading into the spring. Any time a player of that caliber exits the stage all eyes turn to the quarterback spot. The Razorbacks signed two highly-touted QBs on National Signing Day: Damon Mitchell from New Jersey and hometown boy Austin Allen from Fayetteville, Ark. But freshmen are like fruit: you never know how ripe they are until you take the first bite.
Watch out for: Coach Bielema. His hiring made a big early splash and he has certainly gotten the Razorbacks off to a rousing start with a top-25 signing class, one that included some unwanted drama when south Florida running back Alex Collins failed to show up at his high school on signing day because his mother stole his commitment papers. Collins signed with Arkansas a day later when his father got involved. Still, no one knows for sure what the tone and tenor of this Razorback team will be. That can only be answered by its leader. And he can only answer it through his actions once workouts begin.