Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Coach making a quick change
Smith has Razorbacks shirt now
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema completed his first coaching staff with the hiring of wide receivers coach Michael Smith.
FAYETTEVILLE The arrival of Michael Smith is expected to open up strong recruiting lanes to Texas and Louisiana for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team.
Smith, a New Orleans native, took the position of receivers coach to complete Coach Bret Bielema’s staff, and his history of pulling top shelf talent out of the two border states south of Arkansas and his previous connection to Bielema at Kansas State made him a natural choice.
Smith, who was named one of the top 10 recruiters in the Big 12 by Rivals.com, has spent 16 of his 19 years in coaching at Kansas State, where he was a record-breaking receiver from 1988-1991. Smith worked the past four seasons for Coach Bill Snyder as Kansas State returned to national prominence in Snyder’s second stint as coach.
Smith, 42, said he’s developed relationships with high school coaches in Louisiana and Texas during his 19 years in the business.
“To go down there now with a Razorback on my shirt, as hot as the SEC is right now nationally, I’m just looking forward to it,” Smith said Friday during a teleconference. “I’m going to hit the ground running. ... That’s Coach Bielema’s and my plan, is to get down there and try to pave a way for these kids to come straight up to Arkansas and play ball for us.”
Smith said he was not involved in Bielema’s first search for a receivers coach, which ended in George McDonald’s hiring Dec. 19. McDonald tendered his resignation Tuesday to take the offensive coordinator’s job at Syracuse.
“This is something that just came up this week,” Smith said. “I was actually out on the road recruiting, and Bret gave me a call and he kind of explained where he wanted to go with his program. He explained how he saw me fitting in.
“Of course, we have a past relationship. I know the guy. I trust the guy.”
Bielema was defensive coordinator at Kansas State in 2002-2003, which came during Smith’s first stint as running backs coach (1997-2005) at Kansas State, his alma mater.
Smith said he consulted his wife Karyn and his parents in Mandeville, La., before calling Bielema back to say he was interested. The final member of Arkansas’ on-field staff will make the switch from purple coaching gear to cardinal red quickly.
“As far as when I’ll be there, we’re working on the details on that right now, but Bret wants me to be there immediately and I’ll probably be there [today].”
Smith said it was a difficult decision to leave his alma mater, which he also did for a three-year period from 2006-2008 to coach at Rice and Arizona before returning to Kansas State.
“It’s just the opportunity to further my career and grow,” he said. “I don’t ever want to be in a situation, and I don’t want my players to be in a situation, where they stay stagnant.”
Smith, a third-team All-American in 1991, finished his Kansas State career with 179 catches for 2,457 yards.His receiving yardage ranked third in the Big Eight when he finished his career, and his receptions ranked second.
Smith spent the 1992 season with the Kansas City Chiefs before returning to Kansas State to start his coaching career. Smith has worked with seven backs who have made it to the NFL, including Darren Sproles, Josh Scobey and Rock Cartwright, during his nine-year stint as a running backs coach at Kansas State.
Smith coached against Arkansas when the Razorbacks beat the Wildcats 29-16 in the 2012 Cotton Bowl, and said he was impressed by the Razorbacks’ collection of talent.
“We had a run there towards the end of the year where we were feeling pretty good about ourselves and were really excited about the Cotton Bowl,” he said. “It was a good football game and unfortunately I was on the wrong end of it. But that was hats off to Arkansas.
“Those guys came in and did what they were supposed to do at the time, and that’s something else. I know you can get players at the University of Arkansas, and I’m looking forward to getting players to come in and help us win football games.”
Michael Smith glance
POSITION Receivers AGE 42 (birthdate Nov. 21, 1970)
HOMETOWN New Orleans FAMILY Wife: Karyn. Children: Kylie, Kenzie, Kason, Kamryn ALMA MATER Kansas State (social science, 1993)
COACHING HISTORY Kansas State student assistant (1993), grad assistant (1995-96), running backs (1997-2005), Rice running backs (2006), Arizona running backs (2007), receivers (2008), Kansas State receivers (2009-12)
Off. coordinator Jim Chaney
Def. coordinator Chris Ash
Def. line Charlie Patridge
Linebackers Randy Shannon
Off. line Sam Pittman
Receivers Michael Smith
Corners Taver Johnson
Running backs Joel Thomas
Tight ends Barry Lunney Jr.
Sports, Pages 21 on 01/19/2013