John L. Smith: Lofty Expectations

John L. Smith doesn't back away from lofty expectations before over 1,000 at kickoff luncheon. Captains entertain fans.

John L. Smith didn't throw any cold water on expectations for the 2012 Arkansas football team at the kickoff luncheon at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center.

"The expectations are the same," Smith said. "We expect to win the West and the rest."

Smith made those comments after a question from emcee Jimmy Dykes about expectations. Those followed a video clip of Smith addressing the team that was played during a highlights tape for the audience of over 1,000.

Smith did make one promise to the group.

"No team is going to work harder," he said. "We live by one word, grind. We have a great work ethic. No team is going to out work us."

Smith was asked by Dykes about his history of running with the bulls, sky diving and mountain climbing.

"Again, as I've tried to explain to our players in that video," he said, "you have a window of opportunity. Sometimes it comes around once. You better be ready to jump through the window when it comes open. I tell our players not to back down when they get a chance to make that play or make that tackle. You don't want to look back and say what if."

Smith went to one of his favorite lines, now patented at Arkansas after Bobby Petrino borrowed it after the LSU victory in Little Rock after going for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter.

"A very good coach once told me," Smith said, "we are going to go get it done. We didn't come here to paint."

Dykes asked Smith about a superstitious habit that apparently will continue. Smith said before his first start as a college player he put his left sock on inside out. He didn't realize it until he was in the locker room afterwards.

"I was a sophomore and we won big," he said. "I looked down in the dressing room and noticed it. I thought that had to be the reason we did good. So I've done it the same way since."

Dykes said maybe 72,000 in Reynolds Razorback Stadium should be wearing their left sock inside out this season.

In the highlight video, Smith told the team, "Our time is now. Jump through the damn door. If you think you are the best, you will be the best. If you think you will be champs, you will be the champs. You are what you think you are."

Dykes had fun with the six team captains, brought to the stage in this order: Knile Davis, Alonzo Highsmith, Travis Swanson, Alfred Davis, Tenarius Wright and Tyler Wilson.

Davis was asked about his comeback from injury. He said, "I learned I'm a fighter. It wasn't en easy task, but my stepfather instilled in me to never be denied. I have a vision and goal to be the one of the greatest backs to ever play. I'll strive for that until the game is taken away."

Asked about his mental thoughts just before a play, Davis said, "Coach (Tim) Horton is going to be proud of me. It's ball security. The quickest way to get in the doghouse is to let the ball hit the ground. Keep it tight and you will be good. When you break the huddle, if it's a pass, you are looking to see if someone is giving away the blitz and the front and where is the stick. On a run, you are looking to see the front, then the sticks. By then Tyler is getting the snap."

Highsmith was asked about the three fundamentals of tackling taught by Paul Haynes -- Come to balance, step to contact and hips on the rise.

"We don't talk about breaking down because that means coming to a stop," Highsmith said. "We want to square up our stance and move to contact. You want your face mask to face mask, chest to chest and bring your arms. You are coming up with your hips not going backwards."

Swanson said the goal of the offensive line is "to come to work every day, never take a day off." As center, he said, "You don't want any grey areas as far as communication. The offensive line has to play as a whole unit."

When Wilson leads the team from the huddle, Swanson said his job is to call the front and communicate any blitz tendencies to his quarterback.

Dykes gave him a what-if situation, a fourth-and-1 play inside the 1-yard line in the SEC title game with only one second on the clock. What would be his thought if a quarterback sneak was called?

"I want to get the ball to Tyler," Swanson said, with the crowd roaring.

Alfred Davis, always a hoot, got to put some teammates on the spot. He had Matt Marshall, Kody Walker, Tevin Mitchel and Chris Smith sing. Mitchel was the lead on a pop tune with plenty of harmony from his teammates.

Austin Tate was asked to give his John L. Smith imitation. Austin Beck was introduced as a candidate for Dancing with the Stars, perhaps for the second straight year. Alex Voelzke provided his Tyler Wilson imitation.

"When Tyler calls us up before practice, he's like this," Voelzke said, "I was with Peyton Manning at the Manning Academy. I played golf with Brett Farve last week. Let's have a good practice because I've got a tee time in two hours."

Alfred Davis also had Tenarius Wright give a sample of a team chant he might lead.

"Excuse the ebonics," Wright apologized before something that the team followed him along the lines of "red and white."

Wright then took his turn with the microphone as a captain. He went through a series of questions about what it is like the night before a game and the bus ride to the stadium. The last part was the best.

"That bus ride down the hill, it's like going into a war zone," he said. "Some guys are quiet. Some are rocking the bus. You'll hear us, 'Whose right, we're right.'"

Then, he closed with a prediction.

"We are going to have the greatest accomplishments," he said. "They are going to be SEC and national championships."

Wilson was ready for a comeback when he took his turn. He said, "Just because I talk about golf doesn't mean I get to play."

Dykes reminded Wilson that he's changed a lot in five years at the UA.

"As you get older, you act differently," he said. "I was talking to Keon Hatcher. He's 17. I turned 23 yesterday. You just carry yourself different as you get older."

The expectations are through the roof for this Arkansas team, but Wilson said there really isn't any pressure.

"You just handle everything the same way," he said. "I'm kinda in a bubble. Most of my day is spent in the Broyles Center. So you don't hear the noise."

At the end of Wilson's time on stage, a Carly Rae Jepsen song -- Call Me Maybe -- was played.

"Okay, Knile did this," Wilson said. "We were at ESPN and they asked if this came on the radio would you turn it up, turn it down or sing along."

Wilson said he would turn it down, but Davis said, "He'd turn it up and sign along." Wilson retold that several times at media day, perhaps to the dismay of Davis. His running back was just getting him back Friday.

Jimmy Dykes closed by having Wilson and Davis pose with him because he wanted to have a picture of a Heisman Trophy winner in his collection at home that includes him with Muhammed Ali, Lebron James and the singing group Rascall Flatts.

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