Players Happy With Hire
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson thought about John L. Smith being a potential replacement for Bobby Petrino shortly after Petrino was fired April 10.
Senior linebacker Alonzo Highsmith didn’t think about Smith until a teammate stopped him on his way to a rehab session and informed him his former coach had been hired as the Razorbacks new head coach.
Both players said they were happy about the hire Tuesday.
“We’ve got a figurehead that’s so positive and so enjoyable to be around,” Wilson said. “He’s going to work us, too. Don’t that confused. He’s a worker and he’s going to get on guys and make sure we get done what we need to get done here.”
Smith was introduced at a Tuesday afternoon press conference, two weeks after former coach Bobby Petrino was fired.
“The whole team was real happy for him coming back,” Highsmith said. “Because once he came back we already knew coach Smith. We knew his personality.”
Athletic director Jeff Long informed the team about Smith’s hire at a team meeting in the Broyles Complex late Monday afternoon.
“You saw the energy and the enthusiasm with everybody in the locker room (Monday) when we all found out,” Wilson said. “I’m excited. The rest of the team’s excited. We’re ready to get moving on.”
Smith worked as linebackers coach and special teams coordinator under Petrino for the last three seasons before taking the head coaching job at Weber State, his alma mater, in early December.
Every player on the current roster has played for Smith except junior college transfer Austin Flynn. Smith also recruited several signees in the 2012 recruiting class that will begin to arrive on campus in May.
“We had a good relationship,” senior receiver Cobi Hamilton said. “I always kidded around him. He brings that personality to the coaching staff and the players and makes everything that much more fun.”
As head coach, Smith’s light-hearted, joking mannerisms will provide contrast to Petrino’s demanding style.
“If there’s a time in which a team is mature enough to handle a change, it’s now,” Wilson said. “We’ve had that other way. The intense way for four or five years. We understand how to come to work every day and compete and grind and do all that.”
Smith’s hire and reinsertion into the program allowed Petrino’s coaching staff to remain intact, a result Wilson and running back Knile Davis asked for in meetings with Long after Petrino was fired.
“Maybe a less mature team might not have that kind of sway, but I think he got the reaction from everybody that hey, this wasn’t a football matter,” Wilson said. “This was an off-the-field-matter. Had it been a football matter, it might have been a completely different deal.
“We’re winning football games here and it’s for a reason. It’s because of everything that’s been installed.”