Media Day: John L. Smith Comfortable

John L. Smith

What's a tweak for John L. Smith? The new Arkansas coach explains that there may be some already with the way Arkansas is conducting business after two days on the practice field.

John L. Smith thinks everything "fits" as far as philosophy as he rolls along in day three of fall practice. But the new Arkansas football coach reserves the right to "tweak" a few things as things roll along.

Smith gave a "for instance" in a possible tweak as he left the podium Saturday morning on football media day at the Broyles Center. The plan is to have both Paul Petrino and Paul Haynes, the two coordinators, on the field during games this season – unless it doesn't work as far as communication.

"We'll start that way, but if I see that the line of communication from the press box to the field to the players is broken, we'll tweak that," he said. "I have changed during the season before. I think both of them want to be down (on the sideline), but we'll see how it works."

Smith said the only times he's been uncomfortable since the start of practice has been the media sessions. He seemed to be joking.

"I feel great," Smith said. "The only time I feel bad is when I see you guys."

It's mainly a great feeling since there's not a lot of difference in what Smith has done in the past, both as head coach with many of these assistant coaches and with the philosophy as installed by Bobby Petrino the last four seasons.

"It's more like you are in the shoe you have been in and you've been a part of each other as coaches and with the players," he said. "It's that same philosophy, rather than try to fit them in a different shoe.

"We've been operating the same so far. Now I may tweak some things a little, but it won't be a big deal."

What's a tweak in his mind?

"Brandon Mitchell is a tweak," said Smith, referencing the quarterback's attempt to play a little wide receiver.

"He's getting a lot more snaps at wideout. That guy has to get on the field. We have to use that big body. That's something Coach (Paul) Petrino wanted and we wanted to evaluate that. Coach Petrino really believes in that."

Another tweak might be the way Smith conducts open team meetings or accepts suggestions from a group.

"To me, that's no different than what I've ever done," he said. "I want to make it as free and open as possible. I always believe in doing that.

"I like to hear what others might want. I might put all of the different thoughts together that may not be that intelligent alone, but together it may help you make a better decision."

How will the sidelines operate under his watch? Is that a place where there is freedom for suggestions?

"There is a direct protocol for what happens on game day," Smith said. "There are certain times where that could happen and there is detail to the protocol."

Smith provided the specifics on why he might put Paul Petrino or Paul Haynes in the press box.

"I thought Bobby (Petrino) was more comfortable on the field (as offensive coordinator)," Smith said. "Scott Linehan wanted to be up stairs. So I've had them in both spots, up and down. And I changed in the middle of the season.

"I want to make sure we get the communication from the box to the sideline to the players. That's the biggest thing. We might have to make adjustments. If we can get the adjustments from upstairs to the field, I'm okay either way.

"You want to get the information to the players and have great communication. If I see that the link is broken, then we have to change."

Smith took on a variety of topics Saturday morning, including whether or not the offensive line was good enough to keep quarterback Tyler Wilson off of his back.

"We do have the talent in the offensive line," Smith said. "We can be much better there. I know we are better. That's a hard position to play. You have to mature there and we have matured.

"As you get more repetitions, the better you become. I'm a big believer that you have to play the game to know the game. If a scrimmage is supposed to be 100 plays, then we want to get 120. That's why I think this offensive line is going to be better. We have gotten them repetitions and they are more mature."

Can the defense improve under Paul Haynes?

"We are better up front," he said. "That's the first thing that comes to mind. We have to stay healthy, but we are going to have to gamble less. We don't have to move every play. We can sit back in vanilla and make the other team earn it. Yes, we are better on defense."

The program has faced adversity with the firing of Bobby Petrino and the need for Smith to return for a 10-month contract. That's provided plenty of distractions. Is that over?

"Is it finished?" Smith said. "Is it healed? No, we have to continue to get better and continue to heal and overcome. But we are going to continue up the mountain. We can get there."

Part of that process will be determining who in the newcomers can help this season. There isn't a lot of time to figure that out.

"We've got a couple of days to decide who out of this bunch can help," Smith said. "We need some help in the secondary, at linebacker and at wide receiver. I think we have some of those guys in this bunch. We definitely have to rely on some of them. We have to decide that today or tomorrow if there are some of those who need to move into backup roles."

John L. Smith fields questions at media day on the Arkansas campus.

Ronnie Wingo handles a one-on-one TV interview.

The Hogs pose with their head coach.

Photos by Marc F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated Recommended Stories

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