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Tim Hyland

Evaluating the Big Coaching Hires: Bielema, Malzahn, Hazell

By December 5, 2012

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We are officially in the college football coaching silly season.

Over the past few days, we've seen new coaches hired at some of the biggest and most prominent programs in the nation. Some of the appointments were predictable, some were surprising, but each will reshape the college football landscape in their own way. Which means, of course, that each is important in its own way.

I offer my initial impression on each of these hires here (and yeah, we can safely assume that there are many more yet to come):

Bret Bielema to Arkansas: In a word, puzzling. Bielema's record at Wisconsin looks pretty good on paper, as does the fact that he's taken the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowls. But the simple fact is that Bielema would not have been anywhere near Pasadena this year were it not for the sanctions that were handed down at Ohio State and Penn State, and you can make a pretty good case that the Badgers benefited pretty hugely from the Ohio State/Jim Tressel fallout last season, too. It's not easy to win at Wisconsin, and Bielema won quite a bit, so maybe I'm being a bit too harsh here. But he simply doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who can compete with Nick Saban and Les Miles on a consistent basis; I mean, after all, he couldn't compete with Urban Meyer and Bill O'Brien. What makes him (or Arkansas) think he's ready to deal with two of the most ruthless guys in the business?

Gus Malzahn to Auburn: This one seemed almost inevitable. Though Auburn fans would have no doubt been hoping for a bigger-name hire here, this struggling program could have done a lot worse than Malzahn, the man who served as offensive coordinator during the Tigers' remarkable 2010 national championship season. Most recently, Malzahn enjoyed a successful stint at Arkansas State, where he led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 mark and bowl bid, which quite frankly was no small feat. He may not get the Tigers back to where they were a couple years back--only Cam Newton 2.0 could, probably--but he'll certainly stabilize a program that finds itself in serious crisis.

Darrell Hazell to Purdue: In my not-so-humble opinion, an absolutely fantastic hire. Hazell is somewhat unproven still--he's only been a head coach for two years, after all--but anyone who can lead Kent State to an 11-2 season has to know something about football. Hazell brought new life to a program that was nearing flatline, and he'll have to replicate that effort at Purdue, which has yet to recover from the departure of Joe Tiller a few years back. Given time, Hazell can return Purdue to relevance. I just hope he's actually given that time.

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