Bret Bielema most likely has had better spring games.
After the Arkansas spring game got moved inside because of weather, RB Rawleigh Williams III sustained a hit that ultimately forced him to walk away from the game of football.
Williams finished third in the SEC in rushing last year. The loss of Williams comes after the Razorbacks already losing four of their top 5 pass catchers from 2016. With Williams out, the Razorbacks turn to Devwah Whaley as Williams’ replacement.
Bielema teams have had a tendency of finishing the season strong, but that usually comes after a poor start. The 2016 season was different. The Razorbacks started 5-2 but lost four of their final six games to finish 7-6. Worse, they held double-digit halftime leads in the final two games against Missouri and Virginia Tech.
The Razorbacks put together another top-30 recruiting class in 2017, landing four 4-star recruits. The Razorbacks have just four commits in their 2018 class, but all of them are 4-star recruits, per the 247Sports composite rankings.
Defense was a huge problem in 2016, especially against the run. After Robb Smith left, Bielema promoted secondary coach Paul Rhoads to defensive coordinator. Rhoads has experience calling a defense and was Iowa State’s coach from 2009-15. If Rhoads can turn around the defense, Arkansas could be in for a much-improved season.
Bielema might need that to happen, considering his 67.2 percent approval rating in SEC Country’s previous approval poll. That percentage left him 11th among SEC coaches.
Bielema earned $4.1 million in 2016. In his four years at Arkansas, Bielema has a 25-26 overall record but is 10-22 in the SEC. The Razorbacks open their season on Aug. 31 against Florida A&M.
Vote on Bret Bielema’s approval rating
The SEC Country approval rating poll is designed to give an indication of fan happiness over a period of time.
Our formula is based on the percentage of respondents who select each answer. We multiply that percentage by the following factors: 1 (strongly approve), 0.67 (approve), 0.33 (disapprove) and 0.0 (strongly disapprove). In other words, if 50 percent of respondents select “strongly approve” and 50 percent select “approve,” the formula would be (50 x 1) + (50 x 0.67) = 83.5% approval rating.