Since the recent firing of former head football coach Bobby Petrino, the University of Arkansas athletic department– most specifically, athletic director Jeff Long–– has been looking to hire a new coach and turn the attention toward the future of the program and away from scandal.
According to multiple reports, former Arkansas assistant John L. Smith will take over for Petrino as the school’s interim head football coach. The contract Smith will sign is reportedly for less than one full year, with some reports suggesting it is for 10 months.
Smith, the special teams coach at Arkansas from 2009-2011, most recently was the head coach at Weber State for 2012, a school that competes in the Big Sky conference of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) of the NCAA.
With Smith’s hire, it’s obvious athletic director Jeff Long and the University of Arkansas athletic staff are not yet ready to commit long-term to a head coach, and are instead looking for the short-term continuity the hire of someone familiar with the program brings.
Smith is intimately aware of the systems Bobby Petrino had in place– which most often were very successful– and you have to figure the status quo will continue in Fayetteville as such going forward. There’s also 17 years of head coaching experience in his past– something which was certainly a necessity for a coach entering into a highly volatile situation.
Smith learned under Dennis Erickson early in his coaching career, and his trademark knowledge of the spread offense will elicit a sigh of relief among Hogs fans accustomed to quarterbacks spreading the ball around the field, and being a haven for high-profile wide receiving recruits from year-to-year.
The uncle of San Francisco 49ers signal-caller Alex Smith, Smith should have plenty to teach Arkansas senior quarterback Tyler Wilson. If Smith’s transition into the lead role at Arkansas is as smooth as his history suggests it should be, there’s no reason why the Razorbacks won’t be a Top 5-type team this fall.
Jeff Long has made his move, at least for now, and there’s finally some stability in Arkansas Nation.
It’s a safe move– but maybe that’s just what Arkansas needs for now.