Smith not feeling like a lame duck

Monday, July 16, 2012

FAYETTEVILLE -- If it quacks like a duck and limps more than waddles like a duck, it must be lame duck.

However, other than some reported bad investment issues unrelated to football, John L. Smith doesn't limp. Nor does he quack or waddle.

So the lame duck aspect of his 10-month contract to coach the Arkansas Razorbacks may be perceived by others but not by him.

Whether or not he indeed will be more than the old hand returned to patch the Razorbacks through the sudden April 10 firing of Coach Bobby Petrino before a more permanent successor following the 2012 season, Smith, 63, approaches everything like he, or at least a strong representation of this staff, will coach the Razorbacks for years to come.

The players, behind Smith as a beloved figure coaching both sides of the ball for the Razorbacks as special teams coordinator from 2009 through 2011 plus defense as outside linebackers coach, have responded to his April 23 head coaching return from Weber State like he's Arkansas' coach for keeps.

Recruiting for 2013 these 2012 high school seniors, many likely not familiar with him but made familiar by other rival recruiters of his 10-month contract, presumably is a tougher act to sell.

"The only disadvantage as I see it having gone through a few months of it is the recruiting aspect," Smith said. "That's a little bit of a disadvantage at this point. We are fighting through that as best we can that we are going to be here. Somebody on this staff is going to be here and you are committing to a program.

Now some other schools will be trying to use that against you but that's to be expected. That's a little bit of a disadvantage, but I don't see that as a major deal."

The high school coaches, still a key conduit to football recruits unlike basketball with basketball's November early signing period most empowering the summer AAU coaches, have not viewed him as just a stand-in, Smith said.

While having to play catch-up in recruiting, Smith knows he's ahead of the game taking over the team assisted the last four years comparing to coming brand new into Louisville and Michigan State, his last two major head coaching jobs.

Louisville was 1-10 and 0-6 in Conference USA in 1997 before Smith arrived in 1998 and coached teams going 7-5, 7-5, 9-3, 11-2 and 7-6 through 2002.

Michigan State went 4-8, 2-6 in the Big Ten in 2002, the season before Smith's 2003 arrival that went so well he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year but was fired concluding the 2006 season.

Arkansas comes into 2012 off the Cotton Bowl championship 2011.

"That's a huge, huge advantage," Smith said of Arkansas' tradition and coaching these Razorbacks previously. "And coming into this program was a lot different than coming into those programs. At Louisville we hadn't won a conference game the year before we got there. So they were used to losing. And it was somewhat the same going into Michigan State. Here they are used to working and for the most part, as much as you can get out of them, they are used to doing the right things. And they are used to winning and that's totally different than when I came into this other two places. So that is a good thing. That attitude and aspects carry over."

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