Welcome to SEC Country’s weekly Arkansas sports mailbag with reporter Eric W. Bolin. In this edition, we discuss coach Bret
Bielema’s job security, upgrades to Arkansas’ home stadium and the performance of the offensive line.
How real is the Bret Bielema hot seat?
With the money and crazy expectations in college football, can Arkansas let Bret Bielema stick around even without a conference championship or championship game appearance? – Jason in Mississippi
Ah, yes. The hot-seat question before the season even begins. This one is worded nicely, though, actually. And it involves a catch.
First things first, though.
Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema isn’t on the hot seat. Nor does he deserve to be on the hot seat.
Bielema and athletic director Jeff Long have a rock-solid relationship. Bielema wins a healthy number of football games. His players don’t get in trouble. They go to class. Generally speaking, anyway.
That said, a healthy number of wins is a relative term. Many fans are growing tired of seven-win seasons (which I don’t understand, but it’s their right) and an eight-win season might not be enough to satiate the crazies who think Bielema should have been fired yesterday. But given where Arkansas football has been in recent years and the still-lingering specter of Bobby Petrino and John L. Smith, it would take a below-.500 season for me to even consider Bielema on the hot seat going into next year.
WiFi? Snacks? Bathrooms?
What is most needed to improve the fan experience at Razorbacks football games? – Drake
Tough question. Not to get all privileged on you, but as a media person, we don’t spend much time out in the stands — and definitely not in the parking lot tailgating. Although, that second one would make for a more fun time up in the press box.
The most common complaint I hear about Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (War Memorial is a whole different story) is the lack of Coca-Cola products.
I’m being a bit facetious but not completely. Fans generally have told me they enjoy the atmosphere. The venue could use wider walkways, more selections at the snack bar and all those usual nitpicks. But that is the case almost anywhere.
Frank Ragnow is first, then … who?
Best offensive lineman not named Frank Ragnow? – Ben in Conway
You’re definitely making me think on this one. I’ve said for months now this offensive line is going to be miles better than last year, and I’m not even one of those who voted for Hjalte Froholdt on the preseason All-SEC ballot.
Froholdt is going to be pretty good. I think Colton Jackson will be capable at left tackle and Johnny Gibson functional at right guard. But my vote is going to Brian Wallace, who probably doesn’t rank right behind Ragnow just yet. But if he has the season I expect, a season that finally taps into the potential Bielema has been talking about for three-plus years now, he will definitely be the second-best.
If you’re asking right now? Froholdt.
What happens if Arkansas starts 2-5?
If Arkansas starts 2-5 (a real possibility), whose head rolls? – Brendan in Fayetteville
Talk about a nightmare. It is definitely a real possibility, however, and I think it’s where the Razorbacks will stand after seven games. You’re right, too, in that someone is going to have to answer for the mess.
It won’t be defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads — not in his first season in that role. He’s well respected, and first-year guys typically get a pass. It likely won’t be Dan Enos, either. Enos has established himself as a high-quality offensive coordinator, even if the armchair quarterbacks don’t always dig his play calling.
That leaves two options: Bielema himself or one of the position coaches. I say one of the position coaches, and it’s going to depend on which unit seems most responsible for the poor start. Last year, it was seemingly between Kurt Anderson and Rory Segrest.
Segrest is gone. So if Anderson’s offensive line has a slow beginning again, he’s an easy target.
Bielema is going to take heat no matter what. Even the patient fans seem to be anxious, rightfully or not. You can be sure, though, if a 2-5 start does happen, it won’t just be a fringe element chirping about Bielema’s future anymore.
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