Nearly a month after losing defensive coordinator Chris Ash to Ohio State, Arkansas found his replacement over the weekend in former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebackers coach Robb Smith. Smith will coach Arkansas' secondary.
Before his stint with the Bucs, Smith served as Rutgers' defensive coordinator in 2012, helping to run a unit that ranked 10th nationally in total defense (311.6 yards per game) and fourth in scoring defense (14.2). Rutgers also ranked sixth nationally in rush defense (95.2) and tied for third in rushing touchdowns allowed (six).Equipped with a top-notch defense, the Scarlet Knights claimed their first conference title since 1961.
“I’ve been able to watch Robb Smith grow in the profession, and I know he’ll bring in an attacking defensive philosophy that is built specifically to stop offenses in the SEC,” Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said in a statement through the school. “Robb has been promoted time and time again at every place he’s been. With his background, he captivates a room no matter where he is and players gravitate towards him. He’s demonstrated an understanding of what it takes to build a team into a championship program.”
The arrival of Smith should be a welcomed one in Fayetteville. Last season, the Razorbacks surrendered nearly 500 yards per game in SEC play and a league-high 6.9 yards per play. Arkansas allowed 30.8 points per game and gave up an SEC-high 37.9 points per game in conference play. Also in league play, the Razorbacks gave up 253.9 passing yards per game and allowed 19 passing touchdowns and 9.3 yards per pass attempt with just four interceptions.
For the last three years, the Razorbacks have ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in total defense and scoring defense. As Bielema looks to turn things around in Fayetteville, he knows he his defense has to improve. The Razorbacks' defense hasn't been consistently competitive for a while, and we all know you can't survive in the SEC without a defense.
This certainly won't be an overnight fix for Smith, who will begin his time at Arkansas without four senior starters, including defensive end Chris Smith, who led the team with 8.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. But his past success could help rejuvenate Arkansas' defense. Improvement has to come soon in Fayetteville, and a lot of that will fall on Smith's shoulders.