Timing has been almost perfect for John L. Smith at Arkansas, so far
April 24, 2012
Timing is everything.
Arkansas' new interim head coach John L. Smith served as the Razorbacks' special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach from 2009 through December of 2011.
Smith arrives on campus in 2009 when former kicker Alex Tejada is a junior. Dennis Johnson runs the season-opening kickoff back for a touchdown against Missouri State
Dylan Breeding takes over the punting duties in Smith's second year, and strong legged kicker Zach Hocker arrives. Joe Adams starts dropping back to return punts and burns Ole Miss.
In year No. 3 for Smith, Breeding and Hocker are close to the best kicker-punter combination in the SEC. Breeding averages 45.3 yards per punt, placing 16 inside the opponent 20-yard line and does not have a punt blocked. Hocker hits 75 percent of his field goals and misses just one extra point in 54 attempts. Johnson (25.6 yards per kickoff return) and Adams shine, and Marquel Wade shows that he can be a threat as well. Adams (four TDs on 19 punt returns) wins the 2011 Johnny "The Jet" Rodgers Award for the top kick or punt return man in college football over Texas A&M's Dustin Harris, LSU's Tyrann Mathieu and North Carolina's T.J. Thorpe.
It sure is nice to have special players when you're the special teams coach.
But, lest we forget, No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 LSU burned Arkansas' special teams in 2011. Alabama successfully faked a field goal for a TD on its first series of the game and returned a punt 83 yards for a TD on the first series of the second half against Arkansas. LSU's Mathieu returned a game-changing punt 92 yards late in the second quarter to cut Arkansas' lead to 14-7.
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