Inside Wide Receivers
Michael Smith, a record-setting receiver at Kansas State who has earned the reputation as one of the best recruiters in college football, enters his fifth season as Arkansas’ wide receivers coach. Smith joined head coach Bret Bielema on his first staff at Arkansas in 2013.
A native of New Orleans, Smith has been very instrumental in making Arkansas a top choice for high school football players from the state of Louisiana. A total of 14 players have signed with Arkansas from the Pelican State from the last four recruiting classes. Out of the seven Louisiana players from the first three recruiting classes that didn’t redshirt in 2016, six started at least one game while linebacker De’Jon Harris was named to the SEC All-Freshman team.
Smith’s work in his position room and on the field with the wide receivers has helped Arkansas become one of just three SEC teams to pass for over 3,300 yards each of the last two seasons (2015-16). Smith took over a wide receivers group in 2013 that had lost four players to the NFL Draft over the previous two years and turned it back into one of the strengths of the program.
During the 2016 season, the Razorback wideouts featured three players with over 1,000 career receiving yards, including two players with over 100 career receptions. Named the top slot receiver in college football by Pro Football Focus following the season, Jared Cornelius equaled an Arkansas single-season record with three straight 100-yard receiving games, while Keon Hatcher’s eight TD grabs ranked fifth in the SEC and Drew Morgan’s 65 receptions tied for fourth in the SEC.
Following their senior campaigns in 2016, Hatcher and Morgan both earned invites to the NFL Combine, making Arkansas one of just 12 programs with two wide receivers at the event. An All-SEC selection in 2015, Drew Morgan turned in the third and fourth-best reception totals in program single-season history over his last two years, while Hatcher’s 19 career receiving TDs finished fourth all-time at Arkansas.
In 2015, Smith’s wide receivers unit totaled 22 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards, despite numerous injuries throughout the year.
Known for getting the most out of each of his players, Smith’s wide receivers unit displayed its depth during the 2015 season, battling through numerous injuries. A total of 10 different receivers started at least one game while Smith helped turn 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 – all 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.
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 before he returned in 2009 as the Wildcats’ wide receivers coach.
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. Smith helped lead Arizona to a 2008 Las Vegas Bowl win over BYU.
At Rice, Smith helped the Owls to a 7-6 record in 2006, advancing to their first bowl game in 45 seasons.
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.
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 15 NFL players, highlighted by Sproles who is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and the NFL single-season record holder for all-purpose yards.
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 was an outfielder on the Razorback softball team and graduated in May of 2017.