FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said during his introductory press conference he planned to put together a staff that would be second to none.
The jury is still out on what the group can accomplish as it wraps up the final two weeks of recruiting for the 2013 class and builds toward its first spring on the practice field. But there’s no doubt Bielema’s staff looks pretty impressive on paper.
Bielema finalized his staff by hiring former Bentonville High offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. as tight ends coach and former Kansas State assistant Michael Smith as receivers coach last week. It wrapped up a nine-man group that has accumulated three national championships, 29 conference championships, 14 Bowl Championship Series appearances and four BCS bowl wins.
“The staff that he has assembled is going to be unbelievable,” said linebackers coach Randy Shannon, who coached for or played on Miami teams that won national championships in 1987, 1991 and 2001. “There are a couple of guys on his staff that I have had the opportunity to know throughout these years of recruiting and coaching. I think we have got a unique situation and a very great staff that has a lot of great things to accomplish at Arkansas.”
The Arkansas media relations department compiled several figures regarding the coaching staff’s accomplishments last week. Also of note regarding the group: Bielema’s staff has produced 25 major award winners in college football, 20 All-Americans and 140 NFL Draft picks (including 25 first-round selections).
“Our staff is made up of individuals who have earned respect within the profession and should generate excitement for our program,” Bielema said in a news release.
They’re being rewarded financially, too. Bielema has often said one big reason for leaving Wisconsin was to find a place where he could afford to compensate a top-notch staff. There have been more resources available with the Razorbacks.
The salaries for Smith and Lunney Jr. are not yet known, but the other seven coaching staff members are set to earn $2.525 million next season. Smith said Bielema has much more in mind than simply paying coaches, however.
“I know Bret has had a lot of success in his career,” Smith said. “We coached together and we won a championship here and he did an unbelievable job at Wisconsin. I’m sure that’s his main goal at the University of Arkansas is to compete and win championships. I’m glad I’m going to have an opportunity to be a part of that.”
Hogs Land Commitment
Bielema and his staff landed a verbal commitment from offensive guard Reeve Koehler on Saturday. Koehler attends St. Louis High in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is rated as a four-star prospect on a five-star scale according to Rivals.com.
Koehler, who is listed as 6-foot-2, 280 pounds according to Rivals.com and 6-3, 330 pounds by Scout.com, could compete for a starting job immediately. The Razorbacks must replace its two 2012 starters at guard — Alvin Bailey (early into in NFL Draft) and Tyler Deacon (departing senior).
Koehler chose Arkansas over Kansas.
Wilson, Hamilton Head To Mobile
Former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson and receiver Cobi Hamilton arrived in Mobile, Ala., on Saturday to begin their week at the Senior Bowl.
Both players received invitations to participate in Senior Bowl week, which is regarded as one of the premiere pre-NFL Draft events. Wilson and Hamilton will both play for the South squad, which is being coached by the Detroit Lions staff. The Oakland Raiders staff will coach the North team this week.
Players will practice in front of NFL general managers, coaches and other personnel from each NFL franchise beginning Monday. The week also will include interviews with representatives from NFL teams. The job interview will wrap up with the Senior Bowl, which will be played on Saturday in Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
The game begins at 3 p.m. and will be televised by the NFL Network.
Wilson trained for Senior Bowl week at IMG Academy in Florida. Hamilton, meanwhile, spent the past few weeks training in California.
Breeding In East-West Shrine Game
Former Arkansas punter Dylan Breeding participated in the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday.
Breeding, Wilson, Hamilton and defensive tackle Jared Green (Casino del Sol All-Star Game on Jan. 11) have all participated in collegiate games this month. Three more Hogs — running back Ronnie Wingo, cornerback Darius Winston and defensive tackle D.D. Jones — are scheduled to play in the Texas vs. the Nation Game on Feb. 2.
Smith on Wideouts
Arkansas’ new receivers coach got a good glimpse of the program’s pass catchers at the end of the 2011 season. Smith was part of the Kansas State program that lost to former coach Bobby Petrino’s Razorbacks in the 2012 Cotton Bowl.
Smith was impressed by the talented group, which produced three third-round NFL Draft picks in Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs. It also included Hamilton, which is projected to be selected in the top three rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft.
“They were tremendous,” Smith said. “I was on the other side, but you turn on the film and you watch those receivers play, a lot of the receivers were returners kind of like the guys I had here at K-State. So you can see those guys. …
“I know you can get players at the University of Arkansas and I’m’ looking forward to getting players to come in and help us win football games.”