April 21, 2012; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks running back Dennis Johnson (33) is hugged by athletic director Jeff Long during the spring game at Donald W. Reynolds Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Beth Hall-US PRESSWIRE

John L. Smith Named Arkansas Head Coach, Weber State Left Without


Reports surfaced midway through last week that Arkansas would name a former Bobby Petrino assistant, hired to coach another program in 2012, as its replacement for the ousted head coach. That part was accurate, but the name involved was not. UA athletic director Jeff Long snagged John L. Smith away from FCS Weber State on Monday, per the Associated Press.

Smith was special teams coordinator under Petrino in the 2009 campaign. Smith was a head coach from 1989 through 2006, with stops at Idaho, Utah State, Louisville and Michigan State where he amassed a combined 132-86 record. UI flourished in the former Division I-AA under his guidance, reaching the NCAA Playoffs each of the six seasons he was there but one, and Louisville bowled for all of his five campaigns there.

His tenure at MSU was rockier, ending in three straight losing seasons. Smith’s time at East Lansing is most memorable for this tirade:

The last team he coached there went 0-4 to end the season, after rallying from a 38-3 deficit to beat Northwestern. The comeback defeat of NU was MSU’s sole victory amid eight losses.

While Smith’s MSU tenure is sure to elicit criticism of this particular hire, he obviously made an impression in his season as a Petrino assistant. He likely won’t be expected to recruit, rather serving as an overseer of the staff — and his prior connections with the existing assistants should prevent upheaval. To wit, Robbie Neiswanger of The Arkansas News Bureau tweeted the following:

Smith’s age (63) suggests this is an interim move to capitalize on the 2012 Razorbacks’ experience and BCS aspirations. An extensive stretch for a long-term solution will likely continue for the months to come — assuming Long hasn’t already brokered a deal with a coach locked in elsewhere for next season.

As for Weber State, WSU gave Smith his return to coaching largely because of his Western roots. He had success at nearby Utah State previously, and his UI stint gave him a unique Big Sky lineage. I anticipate WSU promoting one of the assistants Smith had assembled, rather than take to finding a new head coach this late in the off-season.

Defensive coordinator Jody Sears is a logical choice. He spent three seasons as defensive coordinator at Washington State, after following Paul Wulff there from Eastern Washington. Offensive line coach Cecil Thomas was retained from the previous staff at WSU, and is another practical replacement. Protection has been a Wildcat strength under Thomas.

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Tags: Arkansas Razorbacks Jeff Long John L. Smith Michigan State Spartans Weber State

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