Arkansas Hires John L. Smith: Why This Is a Great Move for the Hogs

Most you probably know by now that Arkansas has hired John L. Smith to serve as its coach on an interim basis. Your first response might have been, who is John L. Smith? After you refreshed your memory, you probably said "Sweet! They hired that guy who could never get it done at Michigan St.!"

I'm not so sure rival fans have good reason to be happy about this, though. Pat Forde more or less captured my impressions when he writes,

This Arkansas team doesn't need a star coach as much as it needs system continuity. Smith, an assistant the past two years, gives the Razorbacks that. The offenses and defenses will be largely the same as what was practiced all spring – and given the players running those schemes, that's the important thing. Breaking the mold and breaking in a completely new coach after spring practice would do more harm than good.

That's the beauty of this decision. Smith gives the Razorbacks a guy who has been involved in Petrino's system and can provide continuity. He's also got massive amounts of experience as a head coach, which puts him in a better position to lead the team than one of the current assistants.

Smith is coming in on an interim basis. His contract is for 10 months, after which, most likely Arkansas will do a national search for a big name. However, another thing Smith gives Arkansas is a relatively solid potential hire should this season go extremely well. Arkansas AD Jeff Long would undoubtedly like to perform that national search, but it was always going to be likely that there would be pressure to hire the interim guy should the Hogs win the SEC this year, which isn't out of the realm of possibilities. If that had ended up happening with an assistant without any serious experience, it would have spelled risky for Long. With Smith, Long is potentially getting a solid coach. The run in East Lansing was ugly, but Michigan St. is a tough place to coach because it's usually going to be second fiddle to Michigan. Mark Dantonio has made it look easy lately, but he's also benefited from the Rich Rodriguez era in Ann Arbor. Smith didn't have that benefit. I could see him doing better at Arkansas, should the opportunity arise. He was a rising star before he took the MSU job and might do well in the right circumstances. This is his big chance to get another shot.

This is all to say that Long killed this hire. He was dealt a tough hand with the Petrino situation, but he responded with an imaginative move that could pay big dividends.

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