Coach John L. Smith says he’s not “overly worried” about his future at Arkansas and that the situation will “take care of itself.”
Under John L. Smith's watch, the Hogs are 4-6 overall and 2-4 in SEC play.
Smith, whose Razorbacks have gone from a preseason top 10 team to a 4-6 squad sitting next-to-last in the SEC West, addressed two questions about the coaching situation during his weekly press conference Monday.
Smith was asked if he was optimistic he would have a chance to return to the UA next season after signing a 10-month contract in April.
“I’m the most optimistic guy you can imagine. Right?” Smith said. “So I’m always optimistic. I’m optimistic on us going to Starkville and getting a win this weekend. The other stuff could take care of itself. I’m not overly worried about any of that.”
Smith, who almost certainly will not be retained as head coach, was also asked if he has reflected on the situation and looked ahead to what might be coming after the season.
“No, that’s way over my head mentally,” Smith said. “I have trouble just concentrating on today and this part of our season and where we are. I’m going to love every day that we go to the practice field cause that’s the best part of my day and being around those guys is what it’s all about. And thank God I’ve had the opportunity to do that, and I’m just knocking on foot, stretch it as far as we want or as far as we can.”
Meanwhile, TCU Coach Gary Patterson, whom some have reported is Arkansas’ top target, shot down speculation Monday that he would be the Razorbacks’ next head coach.
“I don't think there's anything to that,” Patterson said during the Big 12 teleconference.
One source with very strong ties to the UA athletic department agreed Monday. The source said Patterson is not expected to be the next coach, and that discussions with Patterson’s agent, George Bass, did not progress to the point where he was offered the job.
The source also said he believed someone else has agreed in principle to become the coach, but did not disclose who that coach is.
The Razorbacks are expected to hire a new coach in early December.
At least one Hog hopes Smith will be back.
“Absolutely,” junior kicker Zach Hocker said. “I love Coach Smith to death. We’ve formed quite the relationship over the last couple of years, from me coming out of high school to he being my special teams coordinator to now him being my head coach. I love Coach Smith, and I have full confidence in him, for sure.”
Like senior quarterback Tyler Wilson said moments earlier, Hocker agreed that Smith has done his job, and said that the players need to do their jobs.
“I think as long as our team starts to show some leadership and step up and win games, it think we’ll be fine as far as the coaching situation,” Hocker said.
Wilson stopped short of saying another coach could have done more than Smith, but he did speak well of Smith.
“He’s done his job, there’s no question about that,” Wilson said. “This situation was tough for anybody. A number of things … we’ve had some injuries. We’ve had a number of things. He’s done everything that’s been asked of him. He’s done an incredible job. I think tremendously high of him, obviously, and the rest of our coaches on our staff. They’ve done their job. Now, at times we’ve got to go out there and do a better job of what we do, and at that, you create some more wins.”
Arkansas has two more chances to do that, at Mississippi State this weekend and vs. LSU the day after Thanksgiving. The Razorbacks need to win both games to become bowl eligible.
And even if Smith remains optimistic, it would probably take several miracles for him to remain as the Razorbacks’ head coach.