SEC mailbag: Smith a nice get for Petrino
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Let's empty out the SEC mailbag now that the 2008 season is in our rear-view mirror. For those of us who can't get enough of SEC football, the start of spring practice at several of the schools is only about a month and a half away:
Chris in Tulsa writes: Arkansas' hire of John L. Smith, a good one or bad one? Any opinions? It appears interesting that a former head coach would go "help" someone he mentored, AND, not be the defensive coordinator, but rather the d-backs coach. Seems like quite a step-down to me, but maybe John is looking for something a little less stressful.
Chris Low: The first thing the Smith hire tells me is that he and Bobby Petrino obviously share a close relationship. Remember, too, that Smith was out of football last season. This is a chance to get back in the door and not have all the pressure of being the head coach. Smith, 60, has been down that road at four different schools. He's actually going to coordinate the special teams at Arkansas and help out on the defensive side. I've always wondered why more college coaches don't designate one guy to oversee special teams. Urban Meyer has coached the Florida special teams himself, and that's worked out pretty well. I like the hire of Smith. Any time you can get a guy on your staff who's been a head coach, has made tough decisions in the heat of the moment and has coached in different leagues, it can't do anything but help. You're not hiring a "yes" man who's necessarily hoping to move up the ranks, either, but hiring a guy who's going to be brutally honest with you. And given the relationship between Petrino and Smith, I think that will be the case at Arkansas.
Ray of Shreveport, La., writes: On former head coaches on SEC staffs, LSU also has former Louisville head coach Ron Cooper on its staff as defensive backs coach.
Chris Low: Ray, thanks for the heads-up, and you're exactly right. Cooper, who recently left South Carolina to join Les Miles' staff at LSU as defensive backs coach, was the head coach at Louisville from 1995-97. He was also the head coach at Eastern Michigan from 1993-94 and the head coach at Alabama A&M from 1998-2001. When you add Cooper to the list, that's 14 former head coaches now working as assistants in the SEC, and four schools (LSU, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt) each have two former head coaches on their staffs.
Jon in Nashville writes: Chris, What does it hurt to say that the SEC has six of the top 17 classes? Mississippi State ranks 17th according to Scout.com. How on earth could they be ranked dead last in the SEC West?
Chris Low: Ahh, the wonderful world of recruiting rankings. First of all, you're obviously referring to the piece I did earlier this week on where the SEC recruiting classes rank at this point, according to Tom Luginbill of ESPN's Scouts Inc. Those were not my rankings, but rather the rankings of the people who follow recruiting for ESPN. I don't rank recruiting classes, although I do wonder where Utah's class was ranked three or four years ago. Also, I wouldn't get too caught up in where a school is ranked at this point. We've got a ways to go to the finish line, and much can change between now and Signing Day. But just from my perspective, you've got to like what Dan Mullen and his staff are doing in that state. Getting commitments from Tupelo receiver Chad Bumpas and Louisville receiver/defensive back Dennis Thames last weekend was a real coup. Both are among the top 10 prospects in the state, and Mullen has made no secret of the fact that he's looking to stock up on receiver types that fit into his spread offense.
James writes: Georgia has won two national championships in 1942 and 1980. What is your reason for saying otherwise? They also can claim three others in some form or fashion.
Chris Low: No agenda, James. I promise. The truth is we can argue all day about the number of national championships some schools claim. But if you stick to those sources recognized by the NCAA, Georgia's only national title would be the 1980 crown. Now, if you want to count the Boand System, Poling System, Williamson System, Houlgate System, Billingsley Report, Sagarin Ratings and Litkenhous, the Bulldogs could indeed claim additional titles in 1927, 1942, 1946 and 1968. But the same goes for several of the SEC schools.
Jim in Miami writes: Chris, what is the story with Cornelius Ingram at Florida? Will he have an opportunity to play in 2009 since he missed the 2008 season due to injury?
Chris Low: Ingram will not be back at Florida in 2009. It's unlikely he would have been granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA, so he's turning his full attention to the NFL. That offense would have been something to see (even better than it already was) with Ingram and Aaron Hernandez lining up in that two-tight end package they worked on all spring. By the way, Ingram told me the week of the FedEx BCS National Championship Game that he would have played against Oklahoma had it been up to him, but the doctors wouldn't clear him. It was simply too risky coming off an ACL tear five months earlier.