story by Chris Rushing
Follow me on Twitter: @rushicw
If you are a fan of Arkansas football, it’s hard to imagine having to relive the last two months with everything that has happened. A program that had been the epitome of stability and upward movement for the past four years suddenly found itself in need of a new leader.
John L. Smith’s first month on the job has been an interesting one. His hiring on April 23 raised eyebrows and brought on skeptics based on his performance as the head coach at Michigan State, but Smith’s been endearing to the media and has had plenty of speaking engagements lining his calendar since returning to Fayetteville after four months on the job at his alma mater Weber State.
When Bobby Petrino was fired, Jeff Long went out and hired a temporary head coach that fit two very important criteria: previous head coaching experience and familiarity with the remaining staff. Smith fit the bill, adding an inside knowledge of his inherited players to boot.
It’s obvious, however, that the discipline Petrino harped on during his four-year reign as Arkansas’ head coach is lacking a bit under Smith’s supervision.
On May 12, three Arkansas football players were arrested and subsequently suspended indefinitely on burglary charges. Andrew Peterson, Marquel Wade and Maudrecus Humphrey became the fourth, fifth and sixth players to be arrested at Arkansas since March, which spurred a speech from Smith on the importance of off-the-field discipline.
“We tried to explain to them what's going to be accepted and what's not going to be accepted, and what are going to be the consequences," Smith said. "We're going to demand that they do the right things. ... If (the message) hasn't got across, it certainly will before it's all said and done."
Other than the arrests, it’s been a smooth month of transition as the Razorbacks enter the crucial summer preparations that lead up to fall camp in August. With no direct supervision from the coaches, it’s up to leaders like Tyler Wilson, Knile Davis and Co. to keep the team focused on the important task ahead: winning and winning big in 2012.
“Obviously I want to be a leader, but I also feel like I’m one of the guys, too, in their huddle,” Wilson said following the spring game on April 21. “So, it’s good to come back and feel like you’re working hard, getting better and giving guys guidance, let them know how you feel.”
This fall will be interesting as the Razorbacks navigate an always-difficult Southeastern Conference schedule. Some of the aspects of the program that had remained guarded under lock and key per Petrino’s direction will now be open to the public’s eye with the much more laid back Smith in charge. Smith even started a Twitter account (@JohnL_Smith) to help pull the fans together in a tumultuous offseason.
"I think taking ourselves as a university and a program out to the people more is a challenge that we all have to embrace, and do as a staff," Smith said.
For college football in the summer, no news is generally good news. Smith is seeing to it that June is the quietest month in a long time for Arkansas football.