After Robb Smith's stellar performance in the old Big East, Bret Bielema is confident his new defensive coordinator can hack it in the SEC, too.
Bielema announced Saturday that the Hogs have hired former Rutgers defensive coordinator Smith to the same position at Arkansas , replacing former coordinator Chris Ash. Ash left in January to join Urban Meyer's staff at Ohio State.
"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," Bielema said. "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."
Smith spent 2013 as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' linebackers coach, joining the staff of former Rutgers coach Mike Schiano. But Smith spent the previous four years with the Scarlet Knights, rising to the rank of defensive coordinator in 2012. That season, Rutgers finished fourth in FBS scoring defense and in the top-10 in both total defense and yards per-play allowed.
Bielema could use a little taste of that kind of success; the 2013 Hogs finished 102nd in FBS yards per-play allowed, on their way to a 3-9 overall record and winless season in the SEC. (Arkansas finished 76th in total defense, seemingly on par with its 74th-place finish in 2012, but Bielema's slowed-down, clock-chewing pace on offense had more to with that than any defensive success -- as the yards per-play figure shows.)
Because of those struggles, it's possible going from Ash to Smith will prove to be an upgrade. But Smith will have to prove his single season of defensive play-calling with the Scarlet Knights wasn't a fluke.