I go back a few years with the Hogs' new tight ends coach, Barry Lunney Jr.
My first Lunney experience came in the 1980's when Barry's dad was coaching at Ft. Smith Southside. I was getting my start in TV at Channel 40 in Ft. Smith. Barry and I witnessed the greatest upset in Arkansas High School football history: a Southside team with no major college prospects came to Little Rock and knocked off a Parkview team that featured Keith Jackson, Rickey Williams and James Rouse. It's a loss that still haunts Jackson.
I've learned over the years that Barry Jr. is a straight shooter, whether it's talking about an interception he threw at Arkansas or a top high school prospect in Northwest Arkansas. You can count on this son of an Arkansas coaching legend to keep it real.
One of Barry's duties during the past recruiting season was to be Coach Bielema's tour guide as the new head coach got to know some of the hot High School spots in Arkansas. North Little Rock, Pulaski Academy, Camden Fairview and El Dorado were among their many stops. They spent many hours together in a car. Lunney also watched Coach Bielema interact with high school coaches, recruits and their families.
Lunney used one word to describe the new Head Coach: "authentic."
Lunney says what you see is what you get with Bret Bielema. He believes it will be a refreshing change for high school coaches and fans in the state.
When was the last time the Razorbacks had a football coach who was described as being authentic? He wasn't a big success at Arkansas, but you probably have to go back to Danny Ford.
Authentic may not win football games, but it will help Coach Bielema with relationships, and recruiting is all about building relationships.
How did this staff get four highly rated players out of Florida to commit to Arkansas? Relationships. It wasn't just Coach Bielema. Charlie Partridge, Randy Shannon, Joel Thomas and Sam Pittman all made trips to Florida. Landing Alex Collins was a three coach project. Collins got to know and feel comfortable with coaches Bielema, Partridge and Thomas.
This weekend, Coach Bielema and his staff will be in Hot Springs for a high school coaches clinic. They will be doing what Coach does best: building relationships.