The hiring made it clear Arkansas was quickly committed to going in a new direction ready to once again establish itself as one of the top teams in the SEC.
And right from the start, Bielema has made it clear what his goal is with the Razorbacks.
“As a man, I’m a guy that loves challenges and I wanted an opportunity to win in another conference,” Bielema said. I was a defensive coordinator when Kansas State Wildcats won a Big 12 Championship and beat the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners. As a head coach, I won Big Ten Championships at Wisconsin. I want to go to the SEC and win championships.”
To get this done, Bielema knew the key would be winning the recruiting battle immediately. Not in a year or two. But to get this done and be successful in the SEC you have to have your connections throughout the south.
And no one had better inroads with coaches in the southern states, especially Florida, than Randy Shannon. The head coach for the Miami Hurricanes from 2007-10 and a defensive coordinator from 2001-06, it is clear no one knows the ins and the outs of high school football in the Sunshine State better than Shannon. He played his college ball at Miami and Florida is his home. Plus when you add that Miami ranked in the top 10 in college football in defense five of the six years Shannon was coordinator, it is almost criminal Bielema was able to bring him on board.
Having Shannon a part of the Razorbacks definitely paid dividends quickly with the signing of running back Alex Collins. All three of the 2013 Arkansas signees were from the state of Florida. There is no doubt that this is a trend that will only continue to grow. Shannon has the experience and the expertise from every level of the game to pay huge dividends for many years to come.
So don’t be surprised when Bielema and Shannon have the Razorbacks playing in the SEC Championship a lot sooner than later. Because if you can land a heavy crop of elite players from Florida or anywhere in the south, you are going to win a lot of games. Even in the beast that is the SEC.
M Shannon Smallwood is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association.
Follow him @woodysmalls.