The newcomers took the field first at 3 p.m. as temperatures soared to 101 on the grass fields south of the football facilities. It was still close to 100 when the veterans hit the field at 6:30 p.m.
"We didn't have it so bad," said running back Knile Davis. "I wouldn't call it cool, but it wasn't nearly as bad for us as it was the freshmen. They had it pretty tough."
Clearly, Smith was excited afterwards. There were a few cramps, but he noted that the players handled the extreme heat in good condition. He said the early workouts with the newcomers was "like Ned in the first reader for some," but that the overall athletic ability of that group made even that workout up beat for him.
"There were a lot of good things to look at in that first practice," Smith said. "It was going back to grade school for some of them just because it's so fast. We didn't get a lot done. But that is really an athletic group."
As for the veteran workout, it was a totally different pace with excellent execution.
"I loved it," Smith said. "I'm fired up. But maybe (being head coach) is why it was such a good first day."
It was easy to tell that Smith was in a CEO-type role, allowing coordinators Paul Petrino (offense), Paul Haynes (defense) and Steve Caldwell (special teams) handle their jobs as he rolled around the practice field to observe.
"I've been working on that (CEO role) for a few years," he said, noting he elected to stop practice when kicker Zack Hocker hammered home a series of perfect kicks.
Smith said it was a smooth day from his perspective, but it's only a first day and things will have to improve each practice.
"This is as good of a practice as I've seen as far as first day in my 40-something years," he said. "We get a ton of reps and it was really flowing. Regardless, tomorrow has to be better. We talked to them about that and they do understand that. As coaches we have to get better with the scheme and the players have to be sharper."
Smith praised quarterback Tyler Wilson.
"He was really good," Smith said. "Three fourths of the way through pass skeleton one of the coaches said, 'I don't think we've had an incomplete pass. We get so many reps that it's long and we did have some mistakes eventually. But it was really good.
"Tyler did a great job. He's a great leader. After practice, he called the guys together and told them we have to get better. I think we have good leadership. Guys like Knile Davis, Tank Wright, they do a great job. They've started to take ownership. I like what I see there."
Wilson thought it was a good day.
"I thought it was," he said. "I think a lot of things looked good today."
Wilson enjoyed throwing to Brandon Mitchell at wideout, who also took snaps at quarterback in what looks to be more than an experiment.
"We hooked up quite a few times," Wilson said. "It worked pretty well."
Smith said Mitchell's performance was "great." He called the 6-4 junior "a big target" and said he's very capable of helping at receiver.
"He caught passes, then he stepped back there after playing wide receiver and threw it well," Smith said.
As far as Smith's role as head coach, Wilson said, "I saw him move around quite a bit. I know he was with us, then I saw him over with the defense quite a bit, too. There are times he sat back, but then there were other times he spoke up when he didn't like something. He definitely spoke up."
Wide receiver Keante Minor sustained cramps late in the workout, but there were few other heat-related issues. Safety Eric Bennett worked with the first unit during the first half of practice, but spent time with the trainer with some leg work for the second part of the day.
Freshman tight end Jeremy Sprinkle did not practice. Afterwards Smith said the White Hall product is out after wrist surgery. He will rejoin the camp later in camp.
Center Travis Swanson thought it was a "great first day." He said it's the start of his fourth camp and easily the best.
"I've done this first day thing four times," he said. "This is the best I can remember. I think part of it was the excitement level of the players. We are definitely much more excited this year than the last three years. We wanted to be out here today. The excitement level is up there."
Smith said the freshmen are fast, but sometimes all of that athletic ability didn't shine because of the mental of their game.
"This is what you expect from freshmen," he said. "The game is always faster than you think. And they aren't ready mentally for that fast of a pace. That makes them look slower.
"They have to get in their playbook and they have to pick it up.
"But they have athleticism. We are looking to see which ones of them have the kind of athletic ability that might help us. Some it may take one year, some maybe two. But there might be some that can help us now. We just have to continue to see how they look."
There were some standouts.
"I'm glad you asked," he said. "Demetrius Wilson is not a freshmen. He's a junior college guy and he looked good. I was impressed.
"I also liked Keon Hatcher and D'Arthur Cowan at wide receiver a lot, too.
"I thought Otha Peters looked like a man out there. He was grasping it, too.
"Then you have those three defensive ends and that group looks as good as any I've ever seen, or better. That's Deatrich Wise, Brandon Lewis and JaMichael Winston. They all look the part and all of them are athletic."
John L. Smith watches the Hogs stretch.
Alonzo Highsmith gets ready for practice.
Cobi Hamilton looks for the cue for the start of the workout.
Tyler Wilson was on target in pass skeleton drills.
Dennis Johnson makes a catch.
Brandon Mitchell worked at quarterback and wideout.
Knile Davis prepares to make a cut.
Tenarius Wright was praised for his leadership.
Otha Peters was called "a man" by John L. Smith.
Keon Hatcher makes a catch.
Defonta Lowe made plays at safety in the newcomers workout.
D'Arthur Cowan works with the passing machine.
Photos by Marc F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated