Razorbacks Coaching Staff: Building The Perfect Beast?

With the football season just 11 short days away, we revisited this post from January and updated it to reflect the Razorbacks Coaching Staff as it stands today.

With one addition (Barry Lunney Jr., Tight Ends), one revision (Michael Smith, replacing George McDonald at Wide Receivers), and one carryover (Taver Johnson, Cornerbacks), the Razorbacks Coaching Staff is complete and ready to compete in the 2013 SEC football season.

Razorbacks Coaching Staff

The new Razorbacks Coaching Staff, hired by Head Coach Bret Bielema, might be the best staff Hog Fans have seen in decades.

Even with two assistants yet to be hired, Coach Bielema has hired what appears – on paper – to be the best coaching staff Arkansas has had in a very long time. At least since the days of Coach Frank Broyles in the 60’s and 70’s.

What becomes clear in looking at the Broyles coaching tree is that it is perhaps the most impressive tree in all of college football. Coach Broyles had, at some point in his 19 year run at Arkansas, Barry Switzer, Joe Gibbs, Johnny Majors, Jimmy Johnson, Hayden Fry, Doug Dickey, Raymond Berry, Pat Jones, Monte Kiffin and Jackie Sherrill on staff, to name just a few. At the bottom of the page, we’ll include some interesting tidbits from the Broyles years.

Adding to the Broyles legacy is the hiring of successful coaches as Athletic Director, including Nolan Richardson, Lou Holtz, Dave Van Horn, and John McDonnell.

The man had an eye for talent.

Coach Bielema – who is part of the Frank Broyles coaching tree via Hayden Fry at Iowa – might just be cut from the same cloth. We here at Sporting Life Arkansas are very impressed with the staff he has assembled at this point. With two coaches to go, let’s take a look at the assistants that Coach Bielema has hired so far and give a few thoughts on each.

On Offense:

Jim Chaney: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks

Has coached in the NFL (Rams), SEC (Tennessee) and Big Ten (Purdue). Has served as Recruiting Coordinator at three schools and has brought in highly rated recruiting classes.

Notable players: Drew Brees, Tyler Bray, Steven Jackson, Tauren Poole and Justin Hunter.

If you’ve watched Tennessee over the past couple of seasons, it’s pretty clear that the offense wasn’t the problem. Last year, Tennessee scored more than 30 points nine times and lost four of them. Utilizing elements of the Spread and the Pro Style offenses, Chaney’s teams were balanced, deadly and could strike from anywhere on the field. Very good at QB development, game planning and play calling. We like this hire very much.

Michael Smith: Wide Receivers

Has coached in the NFL (Kansas City), the BIG 12 (Kansas State), the PAC 12 (Arizona) and CUSA (Rice).was named one of the top 10 recruiters in the Big 12 Conference in 2012 by Rivals. Smith has deep recruiting ties in Louisiana – especially in talent-rich New Orleans.

Notable players: Chris Harper, Tyler Lockett, Aubrey Quarles, Brandon Banks, Mike Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Alex Smith.

During his playing career, Smith was one the Big Eight’s all-time great receivers. He concluded his playing career as the Big Eight’s second-leading receiver with 179 receptions, trailing just All-American Hart Lee Dykes. The total of 179 catches ranked 40th in NCAA history at the time.

Sam Pittman: Offensive Line

Has coached at Tennessee, North Carolina and Oklahoma. Named a Top 25 recruiter by ESPN. Has been associate/assistant Head Coach at NC and Northern Illinois.

Notable players: Michael Turner, Garrett Wolfe, Alex Hurst, Kiaro Holt and Jonathan Cooper.

This guy just looks the part of an offensive line coach. Looking deeper and we find that he is an outstanding coach and an excellent recruiter. While he is a bit of a coaching vagabond, his coaching skill cannot be questioned. His offensive lines at both NC and Tenn were very good at keeping a QB on his feet and allowing them to perform at a very high level.

Joel Thomas: Running Backs

Has coached at Purdue, Washington and Louisville. Strong recruiting ties in Texas. 4 straight years of 1,000 yard rushers at Washington. Excels at teaching ball security. In 2003, Louisville averaged 228.2 rushing yards per game.

Notable players: Chris Polk, Bishop Sankey, Kory Sheets and Tim Stratton.

Coach Thomas has produced 1,000+ yard running backs everywhere he has coached, with players receiving many post-season honors. An outstanding running back himself, he is a very good teacher of the position. His players run hard, run well and don’t put the ball on the ground. He was Associate Head Coach at Washington and is considered a very good recruiter.

Barry Lunney Jr.: Tight Ends

A name immediately recognized by any Hog Fan, Barry Lunney Jr. joins the Razorbacks staff as Tight Ends Coach. Has coached at Arkansas, Tulsa, San Jose State and high school powerhouse Bentonville.

As a player for the Razorbacks, Lunney lettered from 1992-95, starting 40 games at quarterback, and was a team captain on the 1995 team that played in the SEC Championship Game for the first time in school history. In his first game as the starting quarterback, he led Arkansas to an upset win at No. 4 Tennessee. He left Arkansas holding UA career records for passing yards, passing touchdowns, pass completions, pass attempts and total offense plays. 

Follow along as we break down the defensive side of the ball. Page Two

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  • Doc Harper

    It’s definitely an exciting staff. Fans have to be thrilled with the resumes these guys bring with them. Never since joining the SEC has Arkansas had so many assistants that have been listed among the nation’s best recruiters and/or worked with so many draft picks. The Randy Shannon hire is the cherry on top of the whole thing. Hard to imagine many assistants in the country with a resume like his.

    The only real question mark is whether Bielema is making too big a bet that he can bring in a lot of talented players from Florida. The long-held belief is that Arkansas’ base must be Arkansas and Texas. Since joining the SEC, many Arkansas coaches have tried to pull players from Florida but have mostly been unsuccessful, but no coach has put the kind of resources into it that Bielema appears to be doing. With Shannon, McDonald, and Partridge all known for their Florida connections, it will be interesting to see how many players Arkansas can get from there. At Wisconsin, Bielema brought in about 4 per year, but it looks like he’s betting he can get more than that.

    Of course, recruiting isn’t all they’ll do, and player development is something you can’t really question with this staff.

    The recruiting stories I follow in 2013 will be how many in-state players does Bielema go after, and how many Florida players can the staff pull?

    • patrick

      It is an interesting bet he appears to be making.

      While it is a given that Arkansas has to recruit well in Texas, there are a couple of things that have, perhaps, changed the metrics on that just a bit.

      1. A&M in the SEC. With TAM joining the conference, I wonder if a lot of kids who may have been inclined to go out of state to play in the SEC are now out of reach?

      2. Good recruiters can recruit anywhere. Having a history in a state, knowing high school coaches and what not, is important, but I am inclined to believe that good recruiting is more than that.

      Like the article says, we’ll see.

  • Logan Bradley

    The staff that Coach B is assembling is definitely impressive. No one can deny, based on their credentials, that this is one of the best coaching staffs in the nation. The one thing I am a bit skeptical of is the Florida-heavy emphasis. While Arkansas has never had a staff with the experience that this staff has in the Sunshine State, it’s hard to believe that this will equate to great success recruiting there. While Florida perennially produces some of the top high school recruits, its hard to believe that Arkansas can pry many of those recruits away from their home schools. My hope is that with two spots left to fill, at least one, if not both, have strong backgrounds in Texas. That being said, with Bielema averaging around 4 recruits per year from Florida while at Wisconsin, without Randy Shannon, it’s easy to be optimistic that he will have greater success bringing those recruits to Arkansas. As exciting as the past few weeks have been with all the new hires, I am doing my best to not get too caught up in the excitement. In the long run, I believe this staff will bring great success to Arkansas. I don’t believe it will happen as quickly as some do, but I remain cautiously optimistic that this staff can and will do great things together. Go Hogs!

  • Razor hog

    Good thoughts. Although its Purdue, not Perdue.

    • patrick

      Thanks. The article has been corrected to fix this.

  • The three states with the most high school talent are Florida, Texas, and California. With the demise of the University of Miami, other schools like Arkansas have a chance to get some great players in south Florida. I like the Florida connections. Don’t forget that Shannon was at TCU most recently. So he also has ties to Texas. I predict we WILL get Tenpenny.

  • goldsurfer

    Impressive on paper, yes, but let’s say they will have to perform at a high, high level to accomplish what BP did in yrs. three and four. The Hog’s were at a high level in the SEC but no writer evidently wants to mention this fact.