Bobby Petrino added veteran John L. Smith to his coaching staff at Arkansas, putting the two on the same staff for the fourth time in their careers.
Smith has 36 years of coaching experience, including 18 years as a head coach. He has served as head coach at Michigan State, Louisville, Utah State and Idaho. During 17 years as an assistant coach, Smith coached on the defensive side of the ball. Petrino served on his staffs at Idaho, Utah State and Louisville.
Petrino said Smith would be the special teams coordinator for the Hogs. He will also assist on defense in a yet-to-be-determined role. Smith has coached in all areas of the defense. Petrino said Willy Robinson would continue to be the Hogs' defensive coordinator and is likely to coach both safeties and cornerbacks. Robinson coached only safeties last year.
"We are just going to sit down as a staff and talk about what we are going to do on defense, but it will wait until after recruiting," Petrino said.
"When you coach for someone and coach together you have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. I'm looking forward to it because it will help me as a head coach. It will help me when I have hard decisions to make or things come up there will be a guy there that has a tremendous amount of experience that can give me his opinion. It is going to be a good situation."
Petrino made the announcement at a press conference Friday afternoon. Petrino said the press conference was called before the decision to hire Smith. An opening was created Monday when Lorenzo Ward, cornerbacks coach, resigned to take a job at South Carolina.
"I am extremely excited to add someone with head coaching experience to our staff," Petrino said. "His forte is on special teams. He always handled the special teams as a head coach. He will add a lot of enthusiasm to our staff and team."
Petrino lauded Smith's ability to recruit, noting Smith's teams at Florida had a heavy Florida representation.
"When you get to know him, you will see that he is very unique," Petrino said of Smith. "He's got a big, big heart and he lets everyone in. He's great at working in a home. He gets to know athletes and their parents. He's special. Our recruits and our players will love him.
"I know we got better today.
"I think he will help us in Florida. He will open up some areas there for us, I think."
In other announcements Friday, Petrino said the Hogs have been granted appeals for several medical hardships. Tyler Wilson, Jerrell Norton and Jelani Smith have all been given this season back on the eligigility side after injuries. He also said the surgery rehabs of Michael Smith (hamstring), Marques Wade (knee) and Lucas Miller (knee) are going well. He said the training staff has also seen good results in the rehab of Elton Ford (neck). Ford has an appointement for tests later this month.
"Michael Smith is doing well and is excited," Petrino said. "We have to watch him and make sure he doesn't try to do too much. He's ahead of schedule. He won't be able to practice in the spring."
Petrino said there is hope that Wade can return for spring drills, but that is still up in the air. Miller and Ford will not practice in the spring.
"We expect good news for Elton Ford," Petrino said. "He's been on an exercise bike and doing well. Miller is ahead of schedule, too, but we have to keep the reins on him."
Quarterback Jim Youngblood announced to Petrino earlier this week that he would not try to double as a baseball pitcher.
"He said his father and he had talked it over and he wants to concentrate on football," Petrino said. "I told him he needed to talk to Coach (Dave) Van Horn because I made a deal he could do both when he came. He wants to put everything into football."
Quarterback Tyler Wilson, out the last half of the season with mono, has added weight and is in the lifting program.
"He looks great," Petrino said. "I saw him Wednesday. He was skinny when he got here and he lost 10 pounds when he was sick. But he's doing very good. He's 203 now and he was 185 when he first reported."
Asked if the national media's assumption that Ryan Mallett was the leader at quarterback was true, Petrino said it would be a competitive situation in the spring.
"It is open," Petrino said. "It is going to be a good competition and they will separate themselves. What they need to understand, is this part of it is the leadership. From now until spring ball, they get to work on their leadership. From getting guys together to throw to showing how hard they are going to work in the weight room and on selling their teammates that they are the guy that is going to lead the team. Then they get in and watch video together and learn the offense together. It is going to be competitive. They are all very competitive."
Petrino said the winter lifting program started "officiallly" on Thursday. That followed individual meetings between the strength staff and players all week.
"Our attitude is great," Petrino said. "Our players are extremely excited. They met with our strength and conditioning staff Monday through Wednesday and they set individual goals. Our staff is excited."
As far as recruiting, Petrino said, "Knock on wood, things are going well, I think. We've identified some areas that we've helped ourselves in recruiting. We need to finish strong on the defensive side. If we can hit on some defensive guys in the last three weeks, we can help ourselves on defense. We just need to stay patient."
Asked if recruiting was easier in his second year, he said, "I don't know if easier is the right word. It never gets easier. But it's not been a mad scramble like last year. It seemed like we were chasing ghosts some last year. We were running down rumors. We have been recruiting this class for a full year. That's the good part. And, we are started on the next class. We have a good list of juniors.
"The key is to keep last year's class and this year's class. That's very important."
Petrino was asked about the escalating salaries as far as assistant coaches in the SEC and across the country.
"It's getting very competitive," he said. "We are entering the day for buyouts for assistant coaches and non-compete clauses. We may have to do that here (at Arkansas). The last two we have lost have gone to our competition in our league (at South Carolina). We need non-competes. I think you are going to see that, particularly in this league."
Petrino worked for Smith for seven seasons at three different schools. What did he learn from his old boss?
"A lot," he said. "I've been fortunate to be around a lot of good coaches and you try to steal from each of them. You learn something every day. I was fortunate to be with him seven years. A lot of the structure we have is from John L. Smith. I was fortunate to work under him at a young age and was given a lot of responsibility and a lot of guidance."
Petrino said Smith was working with the St. Louis Rams in the NFL in the last year, helping with advanced scouting.
"We talked last year (about a possible job at Arkansas) and he was hoping to get a head coaching spot at that time," Petrino said. "We talked a couple of times during the season and he told me then that he wanted to get back in coaching.
"I'm sure he still wants to be a head coach. He was a head coach for 18 years and was successful. Everyone aspires to be a head coach. There are guys on our staff now that want to be a head coach."
Asked if it was important to fill Ward's spot quickly with recruiting still finishing up, Petrino said it was never about that.
"It was about finding the right guy," he said. "There was no timetable and it wasn't done for recruiting. Our staff has been on this current class for 12 months and we didn't need to do anythying in a hurry."
Smith, Petrino Reunited
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