DESTIN, Fla. -- For three suspended Arkansas players, interim coach John L. Smith isn't going to make coming back to his team very easy.
While in Destin for the 2012 SEC spring meetings, Smith said he's still waiting for the legal process to run its course for wide receivers Marquel Wade and Maudrecus Humphrey and tight end Andrew Peterson, who were arrested and charged with burglarizing dorm rooms in mid-May, but has already devised a plan that the three will have to agree to and abide by if they intend on playing for Arkansas this fall and beyond.
"That's what they're going to have to do," Smith said. "It's a matter of you getting up -- you're not a member of this football team -- and you earn your way back onto this team. It's going to be very, very hard and they understand that. And it's going to be demanding."
According to arrest reports, the three stole textbooks, DVDs, laptops and more than $4,800 in cash from a university dormitory. Hearings are set for June 15.
Smith, who is under a 10-month coaching contract with Arkansas, wouldn't go into detail about what the plan for the three players would entail, but he didn't have to. He made it perfectly clear that even if the legal process goes well for his three players, they'll still have a ways to go in his book before they can suit up this fall.
Some fans questioned Smith's hire, but in his short time back in Fayetteville he's made sure that his interim tag doesn't get in the way of his job as a disciplinarian. Players might have voiced their sincere pleasure in having Smith back, but with the interim label next to him, there are bound to be players that hold back some respect. Smith isn't naive to that so he's had to take action in order to show his power. When he indefinitely suspended these three players, he sent a clear message to his team that he wasn't going to put up with anymore nonsense.
As if Arkansas could really take anymore at this point. Six players have been arrested since March and then there's the whole Bobby Petrino scandal. This program has been through enough in only a few months and Smith knows that if he's going to make things right this fall he has to cut out any and all distractions that come his way.
So far, he's done a pretty good job of that.
Of the three suspended players, Wade is by far the most important. While he didn't generate a ton of production on offense last year, there's no question that he entered the spring as one of Arkansas' top potential playmakers. Cobi Hamilton will lead Arkansas' receiving corps, but Wade was a player who was expected to get plenty of chances to strut his stuff.
He's one of the better athletes on the team and can line up all over the field for the Razorbacks. The fact that Arkansas lost three NFL draft picks at receiver made Wade that much more important to the offense. The dynamic receiver was also expected to be a big-time threat in Arkansas' return game.
Like all coaches, Smith is waiting for the legal process to run its course before making any sort of final decision. But if the legal process doesn't work in these players' favor, Smith will have the chance to make an even more significant statement by completely dismissing them.
If the time comes, I think Smith will know what to do.