State of the Hogs: New Approach

John L. Smith bring a different approach to the table for the Arkansas football team. Players like the way the man operates.

Knile Davis prospered in the Bobby Petrino system. He think he was do just as well under the John L. Smith style of coaching.

The Arkansas running back said he's been coached a lot of different ways and every one of them brought something that helped him to the table. The key is to make sure you take care of your own work load.

Davis may not be a fair comparison because he is a work horse. He's going to lead by example in all forms of workouts -- on the field or in the weight room. So a change in coaching styles may not matter to him.

But he said he sees a good number of positives with Smith now at the helm. He said he's more of an encourager and quick to pass out a pat on the back for good work. He said that is always a good thing in the weight room and on the practice field.

"I like that approach," Davis said. "I'm someone who is going to get after it anyway, but praise is a good thing for a lot of players. I think the good coach is the one who does some of that from time to time to motivate his team and also knows when it's time to jump someone and push them that way."

Smith has that, too.

"No question, Coach Smith has that," Davis said. "He'll get after you. I am on special teams. I've been on special teams under him. He will let you have it when you miss an assignment. But by the same token, he has something that makes you want to do your best for him."

Davis said he has asked to be on special teams again this season despite coming back from a broken ankle.

"I'm the backup kickoff man," Davis said. "I think that's one of my strengths, kick returns. I think the way it is set up right now, Dennis Johnson and Marquel Wade are the top two kickoff return guys. But if one of them gets a bump here or there and they need someone, I'm the guy. I would be excited to be the kickoff man and Coach Smith and I have talked about that. He's okay with that."

Davis is excited about the coming season, with Smith as the trigger man.

"I think he's going to help this team, not hurt it," Davis said. "We know what Coach Petrino brought to the table. He was a really good coach. But so is Coach Smith. I see how he excites our assistant coaches. They want to work for him. They were pleased he was named coach. That's where it starts. Then you talk to the team, it's the same thing. We were all on board immediately."

Defensively, the tune was the same.

"Coach Smith gives us what we need to win this year," said Trey Flowers, starting defensive end. "I heard someone outside the team talking the other day. They had the opinion Coach Smith might be old and a little soft compared (to Bobby Petrino). Well, he's a little old, but he's sure not soft.

"There were times in the fall that the defensive ends went with the outside linebackers for certain drills. Coach Smith had us for extended periods of practice so we could work on our stand-up drills. He got after us if we didn't do it the right way. He would get in your face. Loud and aggressive. That's what he was with us.

"But we all knew he was telling us exactly the right things and making sure we got them done. He knows technique. He knows his stuff. I know he helped me get ready to play."

The mindset of the team is that the ball is rolling forward. Not everyone outside the program feels the same way. Some of the national writers have downgraded expectations by a victory or two after the change from Petrino to Smith.

"I hear some of that stuff," Tyler Wilson said. "So be it. That's just more motivation for us. You can't control that, but you an use it. Nothing ever surprises me about the way people outside the program perceive our team. I will say that our players think that Coach Smith has helped our team.

"We've been managed one way as far as a style of coaching. Sometimes a change in styles is very good. I think you have to get things freshened up from time to time. Coach Smith has done that."

Davis said it best.

"You need a coach that you are willing to go on the field and risk injury," he said. "You want to have passion for the man at the top. Some you don't want to risk injury for.

"What we have with this head coach is a man that we all believe in. We know he believes in us. Every player on this team will go on the field and risk injury. They will spill blood for this man. They will fight for him. Every man.

"That's where it starts as a football player. Will you risk everything for the man at the top? Will you do it in practice because you respect and believe in him as a man and a person.

"We have that with Coach Smith. You ask any man on this team and they will tell you the same thing. That's a great place to be with a team. That's where we are and it's a reason that I think we are going to have a great season."

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