Auburn and Arkansas both did a great job of filling their head coaching vacancies by hiring Gus Malzahn and Bret Bielema, respectively, but it's the Tigers that made the better hire from a recruiting standpoint.
This isn't meant to be a knock on Bielema, because he certainly has a great track record. To be frank, my initial thought was that Bielema was the better recruiting hire due to his big name, winning record at Wisconsin and history of sending players to the NFL. He also possesses the experience advantage over Malzahn.
Bielema was the head coach at Wisconsin, a major Big Ten program, for seven seasons. Malzahn, the head coach for Arkansas State for one year...
The more I thought about it, though, the more I came to realize that their recruiting success moving forward will be determined by how well they fit the recruiting situations that they are inheriting.
This is where Malzahn gained the clear advantage.
For all of the experience that Bielema has over Malzahn, he's lacking it in one critical region: the SEC.
He's been a major figure in the Big Ten region for years now, so many of his recruiting ins and pipelines have been established in said region. Now he has to go to Arkansas and start over in a completely different part of the country and in a completely different conference.
He has to establish new recruiting relationships with high school head coaches, specifically in Arkansas, and he has to figure out where his best pipelines are. It's not as if he's never recruited in the SEC region, but it's now in a completely different context with a completely different program.
I'm sure he'll be briefed and thoroughly informed by his recruiting staff at Arkansas, but he's heading into somewhat of an unknown territory.
Malzahn, on the other hand, has been an assistant at Auburn, Tulsa and Arkansas, and he has his one year of head coaching experience at Arkansas State under his belt. His whole college coaching career has revolved around SEC country, so he most likely has footholds and recruiting ins all over the region. Not to mention he's originally from Fort Smith, Ark., and he gained notoriety as a head coach because of his time spent coaching high school football in the state of Arkansas.
Malzahn may already have more recruiting footholds in Arkansas than Bielema does, and that's what makes him such a great recruiting hire.
That's not to say that Bielema won't find success as a recruiter in the SEC, but there's no doubting that he's got a lot of catching up to do. It's going to take him more time to establish recruiting connections within the region, and that's valuable time wasted in the college football world.
Auburn made the better recruiting hire. Malzahn knows the region and is a well-known coach within the region. That's going to be huge from a recruiting perspective.
Recruiting is just as much about pipelines as it is about personalities.