When I covered high school football for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, I covered several of Brad Bolding's games when he was the coach at Mayflower, and always came away impressed with his teams, which usually won. I thought he was a great hire when NLR grabbed him a few years ago, and it's really starting to pay dividends.
Anyone who follows Arkansas high school football and in-state recruiting knows Central Arkansas public schools have not been developing players in recent years with the same frequency the area once did. There are several reasons for that, many of them not specifically football related. Most all of the SEC-caliber talent from the area has come from private schools in recent years: D.J. Williams and Joe Adams (CAC), Michael Dyer (Little Rock Christian), Hunter Henry (Pulaski Academy) to name a few. The 7A-Central football teams have struggled as a result.
That's starting to change with Bolding's North Little Rock program. Although last year's prize recruit Altee Tenpenny chose Alabama, Bret Bielema signed Bolding's former Charging Wildcat Martrell Spaight out of juco, has a commitment from running back Juan Day, and is evaluating some of the other players currently on the NLR roster.
Hopefully, Bolding can help make public schools in Central Arkansas a hotbed again. Bringing in great players from the area has long been important to the success of the Razorbacks. Many of the other Little Rock-area programs have been crumbling in recent years, leaving potential talent undeveloped or perhaps out of football altogether. Covering those schools was as depressing as the decline of Razorback basketball. It's refreshing to see a young, quality coach making an effort and succeeding at bringing one of those programs back to life.
As you can see from the excerpt below, Bielema is already clearly aware of Bolding's work and is making an effort to develop a mutually beneficial relationship.
Here is an excerpt from Olson's story at Sporting Life Arkansas. You can read it in its entirety here:
North Little Rock High School has become the "it" program in the area for football players and maybe for basketball players in light of their 2012-13 7A State Title. Not only does Charging Wildcats coach Brad Bolding have the luxury of being the lone high school in a town with a population of close to 63,000 people, he has also drawn players from LRSD schools who are tired of losing and disorganization.
Bolding, the son of legendary prep coach and athletic director Buzz Bolding, is a player’s coach. The team is outfitted with Under Armour gear, has a nice weight and locker room and turf field. The program has a collegiate feel with attention to detail and structure and word has spread. Over the past few years, Bolding has molded the talent into winners. Last year NLR was less than a minute away from playing for the 7A State Title. Fayetteville quarterback Austin Allen, a Razorback football signee, engineered a miracle drive that produced a game-winning field goal as time ran out.
Bielema got to know Bolding early in his tenure as he courted highly touted running back Altee Tenpenny. Bielema was relentless in his pursuit of Tenpenny, who stayed true to his Alabama pledge. Bielema met with him at school, at home and at his part-time job. During the process Bielema and Bolding became close.
Bilema impressed Bolding with his laid-back approach, and genuine interest in the players as people. As Bielema evaluated Tenpenny he noticed the influx of talent at NLR. He immediately offered junior running back Juan Day a scholarship. Day, the cousin of former U of A standout Cedric Cobbs, ran for more than 1,000 yards last fall as the complementary back to Tenpenny.
"There were some people that said (Day) looked better in some games than (Tenpenny)," Bolding said Friday night. "I’m not going to say that, but he is a good running back. (Day) isn’t going to impress you with the combine numbers that (Tenpenny) has, but he runs hard."
The good news for both Brad Bolding and Bret Bielema is the cupboard is fully stocked.