FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema formally introduced Paul Rhoads as the Razorbacks new defensive coordinator Saturday afternoon.
Rhoads is replacing Robb Smith, who is now in the same position at Minnesota. Rhoads served as Arkansas’ defensive backs coach during the 2016 season. Prior to that, he was the head coach at Iowa State for seven seasons.
Here’s the rundown of what Bielema had to say:
- Bielema opens discussing recruiting and trying to close out the 2017 class: “We’ve got a week left in recruiting. It always gets a little intense. You have a certain wish list. But obviously only a certain number of spots, scholarship numbers, preferred walk-ons, different things that happened a lot here in the last week, week and a half. It’s a very challenging week we have in front of us.” Arkansas is hosting 13 official visitors in the 2017 class this weekend.
- Junior college tight end Jeremy Patton has not yet joined the program. He signed with Arkansas in December, but will not arrive until this summer. He is a 4-star recruit and the top junior college tight end in the class. “He won’t be with us this first semester, but he’ll be with us after that.”
- Tight end Grayson Gunter will be limited this spring after having shoulder surgery.
- Bielema says they are “researching options” for linebacker Dre Greenlaw’s right foot surgery. It’s his second surgery on the foot since October. “It’s a different injury, a brand-new injury but it’s an area that I really want to be cautious with because obviously he’s a player with a lot of talent and whenever we have guys in this position we want to make sure we cover all of our bases to get him the best possible results.”
- On hiring Paul Rhoads: “I knew that in the eventuality I ever lost Robb, (Rhoads) would be my guy going forward. As the season played out, and then during the out of season, when opportunities came for Robb, I knew this was the decision I was going to make.”
- Rhoads and Bielema have been interviewing people over the past week for the defensive backs coach opening. Bielema indicates some of the candidates are still working with NFL teams in the playoffs. He says the hiring will take a backseat to recruiting until after National Signing Day on Feb. 1.
- Bielema says “as of right now” no other coaches are expected to leave the staff. However, he leaves the possibility open for after Signing Day.
- Bielema confirms they are shifting to the 3-4 defense. “It’s something I grew up playing and used when I first got into coaching. I envision it being more like what some of the teams in our league play, it can look like a 4-3, too.”
- Bielema says he sent a message to the team during their first meeting ahead of the spring semester. “I challenged the team in the first team meeting (last week) that you have to be 100 percent in.”
- Bielema on the specifics of how they’re going to run the 3-4: “Paul and I have had an idea of what I’ve done and what he’s done in the past. I’m not going to have any carryover in verbiage from last year.” Bielema adds they’ll change the “language” of the defensive to minimize the things they have to learn and maximize what they can get from them.
- Bielema says former UConn coach and new Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco came to Fayetteville to discuss the 3-4 defense earlier this month.
- Bielema lays out the play for this winter and spring: “We are doing a full eight weeks of winter conditioning before spring break. So we will go all the way up to that last week in March. We will come back that last Sunday in March. We will practice every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for five weeks and our spring game will be on April 29.”
- Bielema on the immediate aftermath of the loss to Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl: “For 48 hours I don’t think I left my house. I had to have some tough conversations with people, obviously, about where we are professionally.”
- Bielema says it looks like they’ll be allowed to add a 10th assistant coach, per a new rule. He adds the additional spot with almost certainly be filled by someone focusing on defense and/or special teams.
- Bielema on OC Dan Enos: “There’s been interest (from other teams) in him every year he’s been here.” He says this offseason has been no different. “There’s guys that inquired about him, but either the contract or his salary eliminated those possibilities.” He compliments athletic director Jeff Long for being willing to give Enos a raise, which he received earlier this week.
- Bielema says when he announced Rhoads as the new DC, the reaction from the team was “compelling of what he’s able to do.”
- Linebacker Khalia Hackett is leaving the team.
- Defensive end Tevin Beanum has left the program, according to Bielema.