FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is still working to hire a replacement for defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, who left the program to become head coach at Florida Atlantic last month.
But Bielema said Monday he has a "great pool" of candidates to work from.
"I’m very excited about the pool that we’ve got," Bielema said. "I don’t know if it’s going to be nailed down in the next 24, 48 (hours) or it could be all the way until next week. But it’s going to be a great candidate. It’s going to be someone that’s going to help us win ballgames."
Bielema said he has spoken to over 15 coaches about the position, which opened on Dec. 16 when Partridge left after his first job as a head coach. Two candidates have been on campus. Bielema said he is considering college and NFL coaches for the job.
"I had it broken down to three different areas," Bielema said. "There’s guys that were long-time college coaches, guys that are not only in our conference but other BCS-type conferences that I know and been acquainted with and some that have reached out to me, and then there’s the NFL pool of guys that had to have previous college experience and have expressed an interest to get back into it."
Bielema said there’s one twist to the hire. In addition to his defensive line duties, Partridge also worked with Arkansas’ kickers. So Bielema is deciding whether to find a coach that can continue both duties – which would trim the pool of candidates – or have someone else to handle special teams responsibilities on the staff.
Either way, Bielema said he still intends to have the new coach in place by the time Arkansas goes back out on the road recruiting on Jan. 16.
"I think transition is an opportunity to improve," Bielema said. "Coach Partridge was a tremendous football coach. A very, very good friend. Someone that, we’ve won a lot of games, a lot of championships. But my intent and goal is to make us better with his departure and that’s always going to be my focus."
The coaching carousel is in full swing, but Bielema said he hasn’t been informed about any other assistants leaving for new jobs.
"I hire a good staff. I think the world of them as coaches," Bielema said. "To this point, I have not been contacted and have not had any of my coaches reach out to me (about being contacted for other positions)."
There have been rumblings about defensive coordinator Chris Ash and linebackers coach Randy Shannon being in consideration for other positions. But Bielema said "the rumor mill is an awesome thing" and added that "there’s probably a lot of distance between truth and reality in the coaching world."
Two graduate assistants and volunteer coaches have landed new positions. Defensive quality control coach Brian Early is heading to Arkansas State to be the program’s safeties coach. Special teams quality control coach Chris Hurd was hired by Partridge at Florida Atlantic to work with tight ends and special teams.
"I have not had anybody inquire about anybody else within my staff," Bielema said.
Collins, Henry Earn Honors
The Football Writers Association of America named Arkansas running back Alex Collins and tight end Hunter Henry Freshman All-Americans on Monday.
Collins was recognized after leading the Razorbacks with 1,026 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 2013. Henry finished second on the team in receiving with 28 catches for 409 yards with four touchdowns.
The Arkansas duo was among five Southeastern Conference freshmen recognized by the FWAA. Collins and Henry joined defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida) and offensive linemen Andrew Jelks (Vanderbilt) and Alex Kozan (Auburn).