John L. Smith might not have been the obvious choice to replace former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, but after allowing the hire to sink in, he's probably the smart choice.
Arkansas is expected to announce Smith's hiring Tuesday. He'll have a 10-month contract worth $850,000 and be tasked with keeping the Razorbacks on the path Petrino defined for them prior to his dismissal.
Many names have been floated around in the past couple weeks, but hiring a person with Arkansas ties while maintaining continuity for a team that could challenge for an SEC title and possibly the BCS was crucial.
"I am extremely pleased to welcome Coach John L. Smith back to the Razorback program as our new head football coach," athletic director Jeff Long said. "Coach Smith brings a wealth of football knowledge, BCS conference head coaching experience, passion for the game and a close familiarity with the current team and coaching staff. I firmly believe that his selection is in the best interests of the young men in our program and will also best serve the mission of our football program and university in achieving success on and off the field in the upcoming season and in the long term."
[ Pat Forde: Arkansas hit a home run with John L. Smith hiring ]
Smith, 63, spent the past two seasons as a special teams and outside linebackers coach for the Razorbacks. He left Arkansas after last season to return to be the head coach at his alma mater Weber State. He was only there five months and never coached a game.
Smith has FBS head coaching experience at Michigan State and Louisville, and Petrino actually replaced Smith at Louisville after the 2006 season. Smith and Petrino had worked together at four different schools.
[ Related: Arkansas names John L. Smith its next football coach ]
Smith also has a relationship with the entire staff having not only worked with each coach at Arkansas, but also at various other places.
If there's one negative about this entire move, it's that Smith bailed on Weber State leaving it with little time to find a replacement. One of the main gripes about coaches such as Garrick McGee or Gus Malzahn taking the position was what was going to happen to their current teams? It's one thing to leave your current team in the lurch for a permanent coaching position, but for a one-year stint? That's a little shady especially when it's your alma mater.
But Weber State's loss is truly Arkansas' gain. Yes, allowing Taver Johnson or Paul Haynes to serve as the interim would have been fine, but hiring Smith doesn't upset the coaching apple cart. No one has to switch roles. Everything is the same except the head coach.
And Smith has a relationship with the players. Even running back Knile Davis called the announcement of Smith's return, "the happiest day of my life."
"I dont care what anyone says.im 100% behind John L Smith.I'll play for him any day of that week because hes a good man and coach 14-0or 0-14," Davis wrote on Twitter.
Not sure how the team would go 0-14, but I digress…
I don't think Long could have made a better interim hire. And while there will be some outcry — apparently some clever Wikipedia editor wasn't a fan — he'll be the stabilizing force the Razorbacks need to achieve their goals this season.
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