Nate Allen

Monday, July 9, 2012

FAYETTEVILLE -- John L. Smith believes the Arkansas Razorbacks should derive more from some than they have been getting.

It's not the players fault, but the positions they played, Smith implied of senior fullback Kiero Small and junior quarterback Brandon Mitchell not achieving all Arkansas' new-old coach thinks they can achieve.

Before serving Bobby Petrino as Arkansas' special teams coordinator/outside linebackers coach from 2009 through November 2011, Smith was the veteran head coach at Idaho, Utah State and Louisville when Bobby Petrino and brother Paul Petrino, Arkansas' current offensive coordinator, were young assistants on his staff.

So Smith, summoned back to Arkansas from Weber State last April after Bobby Petrino was fired, has both a first-hand review of this football team plus those Razorbacks spring practices and the Red-White game he's seen on film.

Memories of Small and Mitchell playing just parts of games are still fresh.

Small, a first-year junior college transfer in 2011, is a superb, blocking fullback. However in the Bobby Petrino offense that Smith continues with Paul Petrino, a fullback is employed for a relatively low percentage among the spread 'em out, multiple looks.

In high school, prep school and junior college Small excelled as a fullback and a linebacker.

Why not both at Arkansas, too, reasons Smith, knowing linebackers depth is thin. Maybe a Small dose could be a big help.

"Paul Petrino and I have talked about getting Kiero on the field a little bit more," Smith said Thursday. "Not only in his fullback role but we are starting to look at him doing some linebacker as well. You look at how can this kid make us better? How can we get more out of this guy? He is a guy you would like out there more."

Brandon Mitchell, exemplified by his stint with the Razorbacks basketball team last winter, is one of Arkansas' best athletes in either sport. He displayed quarterback type leadership with the hoop Hogs.

However for Arkansas football it's been hard for quarterback Mitchell to lead. Despite his powerful 6-4, 230 presence, Mitchell was stuck first behind Razorbacks passing leader and current NFL quarterback Ryan Mallett and then returning senior first-team All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson breaking so many of Mallett's Razorbacks records last year.

Receivers, by far the most overcrowded of Arkansas positions during the Bobby Petrino era, now suddenly have dwindled from a mob to the norm due to graduations, transfers and an impending court case awaiting receivers Marquel Wade and Maudrecus Humphrey.

"We have gone from too many to right on the borderline," Smith said of receivers. "So we have Brandon playing some of that. We think there are some places on the field with him we can get some mismatches. He is a very talented kid. He can play and our obligation as coaches is to try and get that guy on the field. He will still work at quarterback but wherever he is, he can help us and is a talented guy that ought to be out there playing some."

Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Alfred Davis is one of this team's most respected leaders. But again it's hard to lead from the bench.

"Alfred Davis has to give us more plays defensively." Smith said. "He''s a leader and is going to have to give us more plays."

At a too rangy listed 6-6, 210, incoming freshman Jeremy Sprinkle, recruited as a tight end/defensive end out of White Hall, likely would have redshirted anyway in 2012. Now an injury takes a hand to make redshirting a given.

"He's got a wrist problem that he is going to have to fix," Smith said. "So he is probably going to redshirt."

Walk-ons David Hurd, a junior from West Monroe, La. closing spring drills at first-team offensive tackle, and Jared Green, a senior from Little Rock Central closing spring drills battling for second-team tackle time on the D-line, have earned scholarships, Smith said.

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