Inside Wide Receivers
Michael Smith, a record-setting receiver at Kansas State who went on to earn a reputation as one of the best recruiters in college football, enters his fourth season as Arkansas’ wide receivers coach.
Smith, who was named one of the top 10 recruiters in the Big 12 Conference in 2012 by Rivals, spent the first 11 years of his coaching career at Kansas State. He also coached running backs at Rice in 2006 before moving to Arizona, where he coached running backs in 2007 and inside receivers in 2008. He returned to Kansas State in 2009 as the Wildcats’ wide receivers coach before joining the Arkansas staff in 2013.
Smith has been very instrumental in making Arkansas a top choice for high school football players from Louisiana. Six players have signed with Arkansas from the Pelican State from the last two recruiting classes, which is more than the classes from 2012-14 combined.
Last year for the Razorbacks, Smith’s wide receivers unit totaled more than 3,400 yards, despite numerous injuries throughout the year. In addition, 10 different receivers started at least one game in the 2015 season and 14 players caught at least one pass.
Known for getting the most out of each of his players, Smith was able to coach Drew Morgan into one of the top receivers in the conference. Morgan opened the 2015 campaign as the No. 3 or No. 4 wide receiver, but went on to total three 100-yard receiving games during SEC play away from home and lead the conference with 10 touchdown catches during the regular season. Arkansas’ leading receiver, Morgan finished with 63 receptions for 843 yards. His 10 touchdown catches tied for second in the SEC and 17th nationally and also equaled the third-most in program single-season history.
In 2014, the wide receivers unit made big improvements from year one. Keon Hatcher had a breakout season, leading the team with 43 receptions for 558 yards (13.0 avg.) and six touchdowns. The position group caught 106 passes on the season, 29 more than the previous season.
When Smith arrived at Arkansas in 2013, he took over a group that had seen four wide receivers selected in the last two NFL Drafts. Javontee Herndon enjoyed a breakout senior season, leading the team with 31 receptions and 437 yards and tying for the team lead with four receiving touchdowns.
At Kansas State, Smith helped the Wildcats capture their second Big 12 title and play in the Fiesta Bowl in 2012, as the Wildcats posted an 11-2 record and finished the year ranked No. 12 in the AP poll. Chris Harper led the Wildcats with 58 receptions for 857 yards and three touchdowns and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors. In 2011, true freshman Tyler Lockett earned All-America honors as a kick returner and made an immediate impact at the wide receiver position. He set the Big 12 and Kansas State single-season record for kickoff-return average at 35.2 yards per return.
In 2009, Smith coached All-American Brandon Banks, who set school and Big 12 records in kickoff returns as well as leading the squad in receptions. Banks led the Big 12 and was eighth nationally with his average of 174.8 all-purpose yards per game and ranks fourth in school history with 3,828 career all-purpose yards. At wide receiver, Banks also led the team in receptions (56) and receiving yards (705) and also ranks ninth in Kansas State history with 123 career receptions and 10th in career receiving yards with 1,754.
Smith helped lead Arizona to a 2008 Las Vegas Bowl win over BYU while he mentored Mike Thomas, who became the Pac-10 career receptions record holder with 259 grabs.
At Rice, Smith helped the Owls to a 7-6 record in 2006, advancing to their first bowl game in 45 seasons. He coached senior Quinton Smith to 1,096 yards in 2006, making him only the sixth Owls’ running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.
Smith has coached three of the top 10 career rushing leaders in Kansas State history in Darren Sproles, Eric Hickson and Mike Lawrence. He also directed a running back to the single-season rushing record in three of his last five seasons at Kansas State during his first tenure, including Sproles, a first team All-American. Sproles surpassed the mark during the 2003 season with 1,986 yards, which ranked as the 10th-best rushing total in NCAA history. At the conclusion of the 2003 regular season, Sproles finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting and was the runner-up for the Doak Walker Award.
A second-team All-Big 12 pick in 2002, Sproles rushed for 1,465 yards and 17 touchdowns. Sproles concluded his four-year career as the Big 12’s leader in all-purpose yards with 6,812 and the Wildcats’ career rushing leader with 4,979 yards, a record he still holds today. In 2001, Josh Scobey set the single-season rushing record with 1,263 yards and also broke the school’s career rushing touchdown record with 31.
After his playing career, Smith returned to Kansas State as a student assistant. As a graduate assistant in 1995 and 1996, Smith assisted Greg Peterson with the receivers and helped tutor wideouts Kevin Lockett and Mitch Running, who became just the fifth receiving tandem in Big Eight history to snag at least 50 passes in the same season.
Throughout his coaching career, Smith has been the position coach for 12 NFL players, including the Pro Bowler Sproles.
As a player, Smith was one of the Big Eight’s all-time great receivers. He concluded his playing career as the Big Eight’s second-leading receiver with 179 receptions, trailing just All-American Hart Lee Dykes. The total of 179 catches ranked 40th in NCAA history at the time.
Smith was named a third-team All-American in 1991, honorable mention All-American in 1989 and a two-time All-Big Eight selection (1989 and 1991). He played for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1992.
His career total of 2,457 receiving yards was third-best in Big Eight history behind Dykes and 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers. The total was bolstered by nine 100-yard receiving games, which was a school record at the time. He led the Big Eight as a sophomore in 1989 and was seventh in the nation with 70 catches for 816 yards
Smith graduated from Kansas State in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in social science. He and his wife, Karyn, have four children: Kylie, Kenzie, Kason and Kamryn. Kylie is an outfielder on the Razorback softball team.