OKLAHOMA, April 25, 2012 – On Saturday, the Arkansas Razorbacks were still officially leaderless, yet out to prove a point to a record crowd of 45,250 at the annual Spring Red/White football game. By Monday, with John L. Smith named as a head coach, the team was not only focused, but back to some sort of normalcy after a spring filled with more off-the-field drama than on-the-field plays.
As the Hogs took the field on Saturday at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, there were a few things that were immediately apparent to all in attendance. First being that all of the uncertainty and the frenzy surrounding their former head coach Bobby Petrino had only reinforced a sense of unity and opened a door for unlikely leaders, such as Senior quarterback Tyler Wilson. The second that the team’s stellar performance made an enormous impact on the crowd that had gathered to watch them and the fan support had made an emotional impact on both player and staff.
Tyler Wilson said, “One thing I wanted to do was come out here and play my best when I looked up into the stands and saw that support. It almost choked me up a little bit walking up there because I was like, ‘These guys are still in it,’ and I hope they know that I am. I’m going to continue to give my best and I’m so thankful for the support we have.”
Giving his best is exactly what Wilson did. The Senior from Greenwood, Arkansas completed 31 of 41 passes for 467 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson lead the Red team to seven scoring drives in nine possessions. It is interesting to note that both Wilson and running back Knile Davis chose to bypass the NFL draft and return for their senior season with the Razorbacks in hopes of both SEC and a National Championship.
Other players that made a great impression on fans on Saturday were tight end Chris Gragg, WR Marquel Wade, RB Ronnie Wingo Jr, and WR Cobi Hamilton. Gragg had nine catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Wade had six catches for 136 yards and one touchdown. Ronnie Wingo Jr. had 88 yards and three scores on 14 carries. The Red team would go on to win over the White team 65-0.
RETURN TO NORMALCY
The cloud of controversy and scandal that has loomed over Fayetteville for the last few weeks is beginning to lift. What began with a freak accident involving head football coach Bobby Petrino and a 25 year old Athletic Department employee unraveled into a bevy of deceit and the eventual firing of the shamed coach by University Athletic Director Jeff Long. Now a familiar face has been named head coach for the next 10 months and will hopefully place life back into a sense of normalcy for a team with hopes of a championship bid.
John L. Smith leaves Weber State to return to Arkansas where he was a special teams coach under Petrino. This has the possibility to work to the Hogs advantage in many aspects. This is a coach who is familiar with the roster and already has a fanbase within Razorback Nation. The familiarity factor coupled with Smith’s head coaching experience should keep the Hogs afloat and on the path to a winning season.
As for what will happen next season, we can only speculate. Smith’s contract is only for 10 months, suggesting that he is indeed an interim coach and perhaps Long is vying for time and is in search of a different solution for the future. This spring in Fayetteville has proven to be nothing less than a soap opera. With a new head coach in place over a team of focused and driven young men, the outlook for the fall can only be optimistic.
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