If you haven't heard about Razorback football coach John L. Smith's slip of the tongue at this week's Little Rock Touchdown Club meeting, you've been under a large rock. I'm here to inform you that, shockingly enough, there was a whole speech and discussion that took place. You have to admire JLS for actually showing up after the month he's had. Anyway, I've got 50 minutes of JLS audio recorded from today's meeting, you've all heard 15 seconds of it, so here's a quick recap of the other 49:45.
After a brief presser the Embassy Suite ballroom was filled to the cusp, with only standing room available once Smith took to the podium. Whether to hear or jeer him (probably a little of both) one barely had room to exhale. Coach Smith emphasized that the program is "our program, the state's program" I know, he said the wrong state. We get it. Enough. This was also the first time, seemingly, that the head of the program held himself accountable.
"I take responsibility for that." Smith said of the collapse of the program thus far. "I'm also going to take responsibility for what we do in the future." Smith acknowledged the fact that expectations have not been met and both the fans and players deserved better. Smith also noted a difference in the overall feel of the team during and after the game. "They were as positive as I've seen all year...they believed we were going to win until the very end." He also touched on something that all fans need to keep in mind.
"I'm asking you as fans, dont give up on those players, dont give up on us." Smith practically pleaded. No matter who's in charge, keep supporting these guys. Regarding Arkansas' next coach Smith stated that although he "cant predict the future" the next coach would have a full recruiting board to work with, a board he hoped would be full of commits. Coach went on to declare this freshman class the best group Arkansas has recruited since he's been there. If you ask coach Smith, the future looks bright, with or without him.
Coach also took the time to shed some light on injuries. Kiero Small, he revealed, is out for the season, while Tevin Mitchell has begun cardio work. Tight end Chris Gragg went down last week with what is believed to be a deep bone bruise after taking a helmet to the leg last Saturday. Though his status is "day to day" Smith is optomistic. When asked if he thought the hit on Gragg should've been called a penalty, the outspoken coach replied with a "no" but added "There were some others that should've been called...No offense to the refs, but they're from the Big East."
Of course, when it came time for Q & A, all the "coaches" in the crowd gave their two cents, one offered the idea to play more zone defense, many asking the usual questions, "what's wrong with the O-line? D-line? Secondary? Knile?" Coach expressed the importance of physicality in the trenches, he also gushed love for runningback Dennis Johnson.
"I love Dennis...He's going to continue to run the ball better and more." Coach praised the senior back's leadership stating that "this is the best [he's] ever been" and he's done what a "leader should do". When asked about his role coming into the season coach replied with, pretty much what most sensible fans assumed.
"I knew my charge...keep the offense going, keep the defense going, keep the coaches on board, the players on board...hold the ship together and make sure it sails right." The ship is not sailing right, at the moment, and this will be an experiment Hog fans long to forget. But, this is not John L. Smith's fault.
Willie Roaf joins the Touchdown club next week. Roaf, a native Arkansan, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year, and is sure to host a great event. As always, lunch is $15 for members and $25 for nonmembers. Become a member for $50. RSVP here and we hope to see you next week.