Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Players scheme to avoid changes
Arkansas running back Knile Davis says there already has been a change in the mood of the Razorbacks, but he doesn’t think that is a bad thing.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas’ football players, led by senior All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson, asked Athletic Director Jeff Long to keep their coaching staff intact.
Wilson said he’s glad Long listened.
The hiring of John L. Smith, an Arkansas assistant the previous three seasons, as interim head coach after Bobby Petrino’s firing for off-thefield issues guarantees continuity for the Razorbacks.
“Maybe a less mature team might not have that kind of sway,” Wilson said Tuesday after Smith’s introductory news conference. “But I think [Long] got the reaction from everybody that, ‘Hey, this wasn’t a football matter. This was an off-the-fieldmatter.’
“Had it been a football matter, it might have been a completely different deal. But we’re winning football games here, and it’s for a reason. It’s because of everything that’s been installed.
“We’ve got a great offense, we’ve got a great defense, and that will continue.”
After completing spring practice Saturday, the Razorbacks go into summer workouts knowing they don’t have to learn new systems or adjust to different coaches.
“This is what we wanted to see when all this stuff started, and we got what we wanted,” senior receiver Cobi Hamilton said. “Now we’re ready to get the season started.”
The Razorbacks said Smith’s return to the program brings a sense of relief after Petrino’s firing April 10.
“It’s nice, because we know who our coach is going to be, and there’s no more guessing or wondering what’s going to happen, if they’re going to keep the coaches or not,” senior linebacker Alonzo Highsmith said. “Now it’s set in stone. We’re ready to keep moving forward.”
Smith’s outgoing personality will be in sharp contrast to Petrino’s harsh style.
Redshirt junior tailback Knile Davis said “it’s already been a different mood” with the team since Petrino’s departure.
“But I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all,” Davis said. “We know how to work, make no mistake.”
The Razorbacks, who return 14 starters from last season’s 11-2 team, understand another strong season could help Smith continue to lead the program and keep the coaching staff together.
“Guys will want to play for him,” Wilson said. “Probably the No. 1 thing is guys are going to want to take that field and prove to everybody that we made a great decision as far as the head football coach.”
Sports, Pages 22 on 04/25/2012