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Bigger Coaching impact: Bret Bielema (Arkansas) or Gus Malzahn (Auburn)?
“Old Man” football or a high-flying spread attack — what is the best method to recapture SEC dominance?
Arkansas and Auburn hope they’ve found the answer in the wake of tumultuous campaigns in 2012 that saw varying degrees of off-the-field coaching issues combined with pathetic performances between the lines. According to ESPN reports, the Arkansas Razorbacks have hired away Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bret Bielema while the Auburn Tigers have taken on Gus Malzahn, current Arkansas State head coach and former Auburn offensive coordinator.
Bielema’s Badgers defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers to earn the Big Ten championship this past Saturday earning the third straight Rose Bowl appearance for Wisconsin. Arkansas suffered through a rough offseason that saw theirhead coach Bobby Petrino’s dismissal due to a scandal involving an affair with a team employee. The regular season followed suit for the Razorbacks as the squad went a disappointing 4-8 despite returning key players from a team that finished 2011 ranked No. 5 in the country.
At Wisconsin, Bret Bielema was known for running a program focused on dominant offensive linemen and big bruising running backs. But Bielema’s’ philosophy won’t be anything new to the conference. Instead, his approach will be one reminiscent to that of Nick Saban and Les Miles in Alabama and LSU respectively — power running, play action, and strong defenses based around dominant linemen.
The biggest boost for believers in the future of Arkansas under Bielema may come simply in the move to the South. While the coach did a wonderful job of bringing in solid talent in Wisconsin, his skills should take him even further in the recruiting hot-beds of the south. Is the problem in the Big Ten and with Midwest teams really the programs or is it the disparity in available talent?
Regardless of the potential of Bielema, don’t crown the former Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz understudy just yet. There’s a new-yet-old face in town that has a different way of doing things — and he’s been here before; literally.
Gus Malzahn, the former offensive coordinator of the Auburn Tigers, has been brought on as the next man after Gene Chizik was canned. Many chided that Chizik was a one-hit wonder who benefited from a once-in-a-lifetime player like Cam Newton who led the program to a national championship two years ago. But as good as Cam was, don’t forget the mastermind behind the offense that turned this around in Auburn — and subsequently how far the team fell once Newton and Malzahn left town.
Apparently the brass in Auburn realized that they had a grasp of one of the greatest football minds in college football. Considering Malzahn’s sidewise move to Arkansas State and the failure of Chizik this season, this was one of the most obvious elephants in the room for imminent coaching changes.
The big question on Malzahn will be his ability to lead a big time program, something Bielema has proven he can handle. While Gus has shown his genius for crafting an offense, being a head coach carries recruiting oversight and player relationship management skills that transcend a weekly game plan.
There’s no reason to think that both men can’t grow their respective programs into winners, but with the likes of Alabama, LSU, and now Texas A&M; the space at the top is becoming extremely crowded.
Sound Off: Who will have the bigger impact on the SEC: Bret Bielema (Arkansas) or Gus Malzahn (Auburn)?