As we have chronicled over the past week, there's a lot of work to be done when a head coach takes over a new program. While the brunt of that work must be done off the field, a coach's tenure will always be defined by what he does on the field.
One key decision that shapes how a coaching tenure is remembered is the selection of a starting quarterback. Coaches at all levels face a similar quandry, and Bielema brings a fresh perspective to Arkansas after a wealth of experience picking starting quarterbacks at Wisconsin. Bielema only had one multi-year starter in seven seasons leading the Badgers, so he's an experienced handicapper of quarterback races.
“Three things that are important to me at quarterback play are: How to manage the game. You know, be able to handle the huddle, handle the communication, handle the snap, just do the things that quarterbacks, by given right, should be able to do,” Bielema said. “The second thing is be able to execute the play. So, we’ve got a five-yard dig, he’s got to be able to execute it. He’s got an outside handoff, he’s got to be able to execute it. We’ve got a bootleg to our right, he’s got to be able to execute it. Whatever the play design is, he’s got to be able to execute it."
The job to replace Tyler Wilson falls to Brandon Mitchell, who appeared in eight games at wide receiver last season, Brandon Allen, who filled in for an injured Wilson against Alabama, and junior college transfer A.J. Derby. Each quarterback may have different talent, but one strength is a must in order to lead the Razorbacks' offense.
“The third thing and most prevalent to me, and you’re not going to find this in practice three, four five. Hopefully over the course of 15 we’ll get an indicator. But a QB needs to be triumphant in the most difficult times. If you want a championship level team, he’s got to be at his best when everybody else is at their worst. And that truly defines a quarterback.”
Oh, and one more thing. If you want to be a quarterback for Bielema, you'd better be a film rat.
“If there is one thing that I would get across to our quarterbacks in general is that I need to have an urgency out of them to become great. If the quarterback position is not a junkie, if he’s not a guy is begging on your door every day to be learning, we are not going to get where we need to be. At that particular position in general, we need a whole lot of urgency.”