Randy Sartin-US PRESSWIRE
If you were worried about the new Arkansas head coach's lack of inside SEC knowledge, then worry no more.
Bret Bielema is coming to Arkansas without any prior experience in the conference. That fact alone won't hold him back; guys like Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Urban Meyer came in and excelled without "knowing the SEC". They did, however, have coordinators with SEC experience that could help them get the lay of the land and build relationships with high schools. Saban hired Jimbo Fisher, who had spent most of the '90s at Auburn, as his offensive coordinator. Miles retained Fisher on his staff. Meyer retained Charlie Strong from Ron Zook's staff.
For Bielema, his guy is going to be former Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
Chaney and Bielema have coached against each other before. The former was offensive coordinator at Purdue from 1997-2005. Bielema faced off against him as a linebackers coach at Iowa in 1997, 1998, and 2001 and as defensive coordinator at Wisconsin in 2004 and 2005. The boss got the better of his new assistant in those last two games, winning them 23-21 and 34-17, respectively.
This past season, Chaney lead Tennessee to being the fourth-ranked offense in the conference despite not getting any help from the defense whatsoever. He'll need to find a way to put together a better ground attack than he did in Knoxville, though, given Bielema's power running sensibilities. UT was sixth in conference play in rushing, the best such rank under his watch. In the previous two seasons, the Vols didn't manage to average even 100 yards in SEC games. A lot of that had to do with the personnel on hand and playing from behind a lot, but that's still pretty bad.
Despite that much, Chaney is still a fantastic hire. As a part of Joe Tiller's Purdue staff, he was party to the creation of the modern spread passing attack, and he is a proven commodity in this league. He's a bright guy who should be able to put something good together in Fayetteville.