Now that Randy Shannon can be crossed off the list of potential defensive coordinator candidates at Arkansas, head coach Bret Bielema said yesterday that he will have the position filled in the next seven days. The new rumored front runner is Robb Smith, and here's what we could find out about him.
First and foremost, he'll definitely have to step up his Twitter game to be on Bret Bielema's staff. This won't cut it.
Smith spent 2013 as the linebackers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and before that he spent four years on the Rutgers staff. He began his Scarlet Knights tenure as the special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator and secondary coach his final year in Pascataway. He was successful in that role, leading a unit that finished 4th nationally in scoring defense, 6th against the run, and 10th overall.
Before that, he was at Maine for seven years, and eventually made his way up to assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. From 2007-08, Maine's defense was ranked 3rd nationally in the FCS, (formerly division 1-AA). He received the promotion to assistant head coach after the 2006 season when his defense finished 1st against the run, 2nd overall and 3rd in scoring.
He spent 1999-2001 as a quality control and defensive graduate assistant at Iowa. The 2001 Iowa squad defeated Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl, 19-16. Before his stint at Iowa he spent one season as an assistant coach at Fordham University in 1998.
Clearly there is an Iowa connection with Bielema. It is unclear how this hire would help Arkansas’ recruiting in Texas or Florida. He is not the household name that most hog fans want. Bielema wants to continue to run exotic blitzes on defense and I’m not totally sure where Smith fits philosophically on defense. Randy Shannon is known for more "straight at you" type blitzes.
The 38 year-old is a Pittsburgh, PA. native and played at Allegheny College from 1993-97 as a three-year letterman at strong safety. He was a part of four North Coast Athletic Conference Championships and NCAA playoff bids. He has a degree in economics from Allegheny and a masters degree in communications from Iowa.
While Smith looks to be the clear front-runner, there are still some dark horse scenario possibilities. It will be interesting to see what happens considering fans have let it be known the possibility of Smith does not excite them.
The first involves Keith Burns, who is rumored to be interested in the job.
He is currently an assistant special teams coach with the Oakland Raiders and has extensive experience at the college level. An alumni of the University of Arkansas, Burns has been a defensive coordinator at Pacific, USC, Arkansas, and San Jose State. He had disastrous head coach tenure at Tulsa going 7-28 in three season with the Golden Hurricane from 2000-02. He has also been the defensive backs coach at Rice, Kansas State, and Ole Miss. His last season as a defensive coordinator was at San Jose State in 2008. That defense was ranked 7th nationally in tackles for loss, 10th in passing defense, and 21st in points allowed an turnover margin. He has mostly recruited Texas in his career.
The final scenario involves a big name that Smith has only been a smoke screen for. It could be someone like Gene Chizik or Butch Davis. I use those names as examples only, because I doubt they are actually candidates. I know Chizik is a Tampa 2 guy who doesn’t fit schematically and Davis’ defenses aren’t much different from Shannon’s. Smith’s name first broke on Jan. 14 and no one can explain the delay. Maybe the reason will come out when he is hired. I truly doubt this scenario, but Shannon has been the only person so far that can be ruled out.
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