PINE BLUFF — Tim Horton’s name was a part of the rumor mill as a possible candidate for the next head coach at Arkansas.
Horton, the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator, was with the team in Fayetteville at 4 p.m. as it was told John L. Smith would be the head coach for the upcoming season.
Two hours later, Horton was talking with Razorback boosters at the Pine Bluff Country Club and was happy with Athletic Director Jeff Long’s decision.
“It’s all about putting the Razorbacks first and these kids first,” said Horton of the hire of Smith. “For our staff to able to stay together and coach this team, we are really excited about it.”
Smith was the Razorbacks’ special teams coordinator until he took the head coaching position at his alma mater, Weber State. Defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell was also named the special teams coordinator when Smith left, and he also made the trip to Pine Bluff on Monday.
Caldwell said he is looking forward to having Smith back on staff.
“It’s a great fit because he has been around the staff,” he said. “I think it keeps every one intact, and I think our players are excited about it. I don’t think we miss a lick.”
Horton would not say whether he interviewed for the open head coaching spot, but he did say he had a one-on-one meeting with Long after Petrino was let go.
“Jeff Long did meet with all of our coaches,” he sad. “Each coach had a chance to visit with him. I don’t think you would call it an interview, though.”
Horton’s name was rumored to be a candidate along with fellow assistants Taver Johnson, Paul Haynes and Paul Petrino. Horton said he did not pay much attention to the rumors and was more focused on the task at hand, though.
“The thing that did work out good for our staff is that we were in spring practice, so you don’t have time to get caught up in all of that stuff,” he said. “That’s one of the positives, you didn’t have to listen about the rumor mills. You were just able to focus on doing the job you do.”
Caldwell did not even follow the rumors.
“I didn’t read the papers or listen to any of the radio talk shows,” he said. “I didn’t really pay any attention to it.”
Horton and Caldwell both said they were not concerned that another coaching search will take place later on because Smith’s contract is only 10 months long.
Horton just is glad to have this search behind the team, and the goals remain the same even with a different head coach.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks and I am glad to get things settled,” he said. “Our goals are to win championships. SEC championships and national championships. That’s where our team is.”
Monday was also the same day coaches could hit the road to visit with recruits. Horton said having Smith as the short-term answer could put a dark cloud over the 2013 recruiting class.
“Our process will go long and we won’t have as many early commits, and hopefully by December and January, everything is settled,” he said. “The best thing we’ve got going, obviously, is a great product in the University of Arkansas.”
One supporter in the crowd noted that if Arkansas wins a national championship, the program should not have to worry about recruiting too much.