FAYETTEVILLE — Even the son of Arkansas football assistant coach Bobby Allen was surprised by the hire of former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema.
Arkansas quarterback commitment Austin Allen, like fans on message boards and Twitter, said he had heard several names rumored to be the next head coach of the Razorbacks, but not Bielema’s until reports surfaced that the Badgers head coach had decided to leave Madison, Wis., for Allen’s hometown.
“Being around the whole coaching search the entire time, you heard names, some random names, too, and you never heard his name much, but once he was hired, I was very intrigued by it,” Allen said. “He’s a winner and a great coach and I can’t wait to get to know him.”
Allen led the Fayetteville Bulldogs to their second consecutive state championship last week by throwing for 198 yards and accounting for a rushing touchdown against the top-ranked and previously unbeaten Bentonville Tigers. He said even though Bielema’s teams generally have a solid rushing attack, including 3,091 rushing yards by the Badgers in their most recent run to the Rose Bowl, Allen expects the quarterback to continue to play a key role in the offense.
“It’ll be a little different,” Allen said. “In high school, I’ve thrown the ball about 30 times a game, but it’ll be a little different relying on the run more. It’ll be interesting, though.
“Watching Wisconsin this year, their quarterbacks managed the game basically, but they can make all the throws. And then you see Russell Wilson in the NFL right now and I think Wisconsin really got him ready to play at the next level.”
While the Badgers are 12th nationally in rushing yards and averaged 30.8 points per game this season, the Badgers 19th-ranked scoring defense may have been its strong point this season. Arkansas defensive end commitment Tevin Beanum said the fact that Bielema was the Badgers’ defensive coordinator before taking over as head coach is particularly appealing to him.
“I feel confident about (Bielema’s hiring) and hopefully the defensive unit will make a big statement next year,” Beanum said. “Whether I’m playing or I’m redshirting, hopefully we’ll make a big statement, because I know Arkansas has been known for their offense recently, but hopefully they’ll be known for playing well on both sides.”
The Forrest City native, like Allen, said he was intrigued by Bielema’s success at Wisconsin when the hiring was reported. Bielema led Wisconsin to its third straight Rose Bowl appearance this season after blowing out No. 14 Nebraska in the Big Ten Conference Championship Game on Saturday and had four 10-win seasons with the Badgers.
Beanum thinks Bielema will have the chance to do even more with the Razorbacks.
“Arkansas was a BCS championship contender two years ago I think he’s seen that they have the resources and have the capability,” Beanum said. “Anybody that thinks they have what it takes to have a championship team sees that as an opportunity and I think that’s what he saw. I think he saw that Arkansas could do it. He saw that Arkansas has the players to make it happen and he wants to have that chance.
“He’s already a skilled coach and now he’s in a position where he’ll have greater resources and a pool of talent coming in. He’ll have the chance to succeed and maybe do better. His first year may be rough, but you know, it may not be. I feel if they have proper management, Arkansas can have the kind of success it did two years ago.”