Burnham’s consulting influence continues for Hogs
FAYETTEVILLE — The Razorbacks don’t just have an extra pair of eyes observing as a consultant to Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema’s football staff.
They have an architect. Or at least a co-architect. Before coming to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville last year as a football consultant while Paul Rhoads joined Bielema’s staff as defensive backfield coach, Wally Burnham was Rhoads’ defensive coordinator at Iowa State.
Despite Iowa State’s mostly downtrodden history in the Big 12 and Big Eight before that, Rhoads and Burnham assembled defenses gusting the Cyclones to three consecutive bowl games. When their 4-3 defense faded — as Arkansas’ 4-3 defense declined last year in Robb Smith’s final year as Arkansas’ defensive coordinator following Smith’s spectacular 2014 debut — Rhoads and Burnham rebuilt the Cyclones from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense as Rhoads does now under Bielema.
While not saving Rhoads’ job going 3-9, Iowa State’s new scheme drastically improved its 2015 defensive stats over 2014.
Burnham, 74, retired from active coaching after Iowa State but agreed to be an Arkansas consultant.
With Rhoads now defensively in charge, presumably Burnham’s consulting influence increases.
It certainly should, Pete Cordelli asserts. Cordelli, a former Lou Holtz assistant at Arkansas, Minnesota and Notre Dame and head coach at Kent State, coached with Burnham under the late Rex Dockery at Memphis State, now the University of Memphis.
In 1980, Cordelli coached running backs while Burnham coached linebackers at Memphis. Post Memphis, Burnham joined Bobby Bowden’s eventual Florida State national championship staff that included renowned defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews. Burnham then made his defensive coordinating mark at South Carolina, South Florida and Iowa State.
“Wally’s an excellent football coach and been a great defensive coordinator everywhere he’s been,” Cordelli said. “Wally in the development of the defense … that’s huge. If Paul lets Wally have input, Arkansas is going to be better. It’s a combination of Paul Rhoads and Wally Burnham.”
Burnham has been out of town, Rhoads said Saturday, but obviously his observations will be heeded upon his return.
“Wally is a tremendous football coach,” Rhoads said. “And he’s been doing this a LONG time. The ability to have a guy here that coordinated this defense when I was at Iowa State and have that knowledge to help out as well as his vision and observations that he will provide as an analyst is going to be very invaluable to us.”
Though a renowned defensive mind, Burnham isn’t a miracle healer.
The Hogs could use one. They began preseason drills last Thursday like they ended spring drills: Minus their best linebacker and best receiver.
They miss junior 2-year starting linebacker Dre Greenlaw, breaking in slowly off his twice-broken foot, and senior receiver Jared Cornelius, 32 catches for 515 yards last year, idled by an ailing back.
However, Bielema says better to use this early practice time to get others ready and truly get Greenlaw and Cornelius well.
Healing time beats hastening back to risk injury every time.