John L. Smith Getting Settled, Battling Outside Perception In First Days With Razorbacks [Video]

by Chris Bahn  on Wednesday, May. 2, 2012 6:39 am  

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Boxes remain unpacked in John L. Smith’s Fayetteville home. His office inside the Broyles Center is mostly empty.

Smith, named Arkansas football coach last month, has plenty of catching up to do. While Smith wasn’t that far removed from three years as an assistant with the Razorbacks and he has a familiarity with the staff, there is still a sense he’s yet to get settled into the job.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Smith said, as he listed off the areas where he was playing catch-up. “… Other than that we haven’t been doing anything. Well, and trying to help my wife from time-to-time unloading boxes at the house.”

Arkansas hired Smith on April 24 to replace Bobby Petrino. That meant Smith, who signed a 10-month contract worth $850,000, took over the program after spring practice and after several big recruiting weekends on campus.

Meetings with players and coaches have been almost non-stop since Smith took the job. Smith has also been reacquainting himself with Arkansas’ recruiting targets — especially in-state prospects. While his stay might only be temporary in 2012, Smith seems to be working to help keep the Razorbacks viable in the future.

And Smith has been a fixture on national radio shows over the past week.

Smith finds part of his new job to be battling outside opinion. Arkansas took an image hit during the Petrino scandal and the perception of the Razorbacks as a national title contender might not be what it once was.

“There’s a lot of naysayers out there without a doubt,” Smith said. “It’s crucial the naysayers aren’t within the coaching staff, the players. We just have to go out and get it done.

“You always have that,” Smith added. “But there’s a lot of guys out there that are very positive about what can take place. That’s how we’re approaching this darn thing. We’re a good football team. We have the chance to be a great football team.”

Smith praised the leadership on the football team for their handling of life without Petrino. He was fired April 10 for violating his contract and the program was left without the man who oversaw a major rebuilding job.

Petrino began his time at Arkansas 5-7, but by his fourth year was 11-2 with a Top 5 finish. He was 34-17 in four seasons with the Razorbacks and had what could be considered his most able championship contender put together for 2012.

Players like quarterback Tyler Wilson, running back Knile Davis and defensive end Tenarius Wright helped the coaching staff keep the team together in the absence of a head coach. Now Smith has charged them with pushing through the summer and not losing momentum.

“Like I told them right off the bat, we have to grow from this,” Smith said. “We’ve had some adversity…. Now lets make it a special year, let’s do something special with this season. We’ve gotten stronger because of the adversity, let’s not stop here.”



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