John L. Smith was hired to be the caretaker of the Arkansas football team for 2012. As interim coach, he’ll walk back into a program — one that he left just five months ago — that is expected to be a Top 15 team or better in 2012.
But it doesn’t sound like he intends to just sit in the shadows. Instead, he believes the Razorback program needs to get the word out that all is well in the Ozarks, despite the recent Bobby Petrino scandal and dismissal:
“I’m sure there is (an image problem), from the outside in particular. That’s why we have to become maybe a little bit more outgoing as a program and let people know there is no problem… I think us as a team and as coaches, we have to mend that.”
That means being “accessible” and “approachable” when it comes to fans, media and even the Razorback players. ”I just have to be myself,” Smith told ArkansasNews.com. ”It’s going to change that way. Bobby… I don’t know if a little more rigid is the word. These kids are going to know that, “Hey, Coach Smith is going to kick you in the butt. But he might hug you walking in the door.”
(Insert joke about “Petrino” and “rigid” being used in the same sentence… here.)
Talk to those in Arkansas post-scandal and you’ll find that Petrino wasn’t exactly buddy-buddy with his players or his co-workers. About the only person to get “close” to Petrino during his time in Fayetteville — if you believe the backspin now being put on things — is the one young aide whom he shouldn’t have gotten so close to at all.
But whether you believe a kindler, gentler coach was needed at UA or not, there is definitely expected to be a different leadership style on display at Arkansas this fall. Whether that will help or hurt the Hogs’ fortunes on the football field remains to be seen.