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Are Bret Bielema, Gus Malzahn Good Fits for Arkansas, Auburn?

Arkansas and Auburn joined Kentucky today at the new head coach festival, held annually at Pittsburgh (Arkansas State has put in a bid to host as well).  Bret Bielema of Wisconsin and "we don't want to be like the SEC -- in any way, shape, or form" fame agreed to take over at Arkansas and Auburn brought Gus Malzahn back to Lee County after a one-year stint at Arkansas State, where he washed away all traces of Gene Chizik on his person.

That leaves Tennessee as the only SEC school without a head coach, but I'm sure they'll figure something out.  Besides, Dave Wannstedt is available AND he has a working telephone.

But what about the hires Arkansas and Auburn made?  Obviously, we won't really know anything until we're into the 2013 season, but that's not what this is about.  We're here to make sweeping statements based only on things from the past because that is way more fun than waiting.

And to make this much easier on me, we'll lean on bulleted lists in pro/con format because it's a little late in the day for paragraphs and transition words.  First up, Bret Bielema:


  • Experienced, successful head coach
  • Not Houston Nutt
  • Not John L. Smith
  • Fondness of firebombing weaker teams (will one day beat Louisiana-Monroe 113-10)
  • Looks like he would win most Greco-Roman wrestling contests among SEC coaches
  • Looks like he would win most wraslin' contests among SEC coaches (the chest-sit would be his submission move)
  • Possibly can't fit under the microscope he's about to be under
  • Has a heads up about cell phones and Arkansas fans


  • Not familiar with the culture
  • Not familiar with the SEC
  • No recruiting connections in the South
  • Not a strong recruiter
  • No experience with nothing BUT ungentlemanly recruiters
  • Coaching style appears to be one of trying to out-power everyone
  • Body type seems like it will experience system shock upon first collision with humidity (probably the first JP game he's in)
  • Likely has never come into contact with the level of batshit craziness he's about to experience
  • Fondness of losing bowl games

And Gus Malzahn:


  • Experienced with how the SEC works (especially the buying quarterbacks part)
  • Not Gene Chizik
  • Innovative offense mind
  • With Chris Todd as his quarterback, helped get Auburn to 8 wins
  • Seriously, Chris Todd
  • Competently and successfully performed in his only season has a head coach (9-3; Sun Belt Champion)
  • Believes in not trying to out-Saban Saban and Les Miles


  • Never been in charge at a big school
  • Never dealt directly with a less-than-stable group of people in charge
  • Never run a massive, full-time recruiting operation
  • Does not have Cam Newton
  • Might not employ Trooper Taylor
  • Fits under the microscope
  • Wife can generously be described as not a PR bonus
  • Will not carry on the dentist outfit tradition started by Chizik

The Bielema hire is the one that has stunned most people, as there was nary an absurd Twitter or message board rumor about him.  However, if he can recruit at just a Houston Nutt level while Nutt was at Arkansas, he won't be a disaster.  But if he gets totally destroyed in the horrible world that is recruiting in the SEC, especially the West, things will not go well for him.

As for Malzahn, he appears to know what he's doing, though there's not a lot of results from which to judge.  He, like all coaches in the SEC now, will have his fate tied to recruiting, but his is also tied to a culture change that involves keeping players on the team and out of courthouses and/or transfer waivers.

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