By LARRY VAUGHT
8:00 AM PST, November 29, 2012
Since he coached Neal Brown in high school, former Kentucky linebackers coach Chuck Smith is obviously going to be a bit biased in his opinion about the Texas Tech offensive coordinator. However, he has no doubts that Brown would be a “tremendous hire” for new UK coach Mark Stoops to run the Kentucky offense.
“I just think it would be a tremendous hire for them if it happens,” said Smith, who was also UK’s recruiting coordinator. “Neal has such a great reputation right now. He is a hot name and has done a wonderful job. His offense has been in the top 15 (nationally) ever since he has been doing it.
“It would be a tremendous hire for Kentucky if they could lure him away from Texas Tech and get him to come here. I think it would be a big plus for the football program and state and Mark Stoops.”
Browns’ Texas Tech offense averaged over 500 yards per game this year and has been one of the Big Ten’s best the last three years under him. Before that, he had a productive offense at Troy.
What advice would Smith, who worked five years under Rich Brooks and three under Joker Phillips, give Brown about whether he should come to Kentucky?
“I would tell him it is a good place. I¿love the state of Kentucky,” said Smith, a former UK¿linebacker and Jeffersontown native. “I love Kentucky football. My opinion would be biased. I am going to be a Kentucky fan for the rest of my life. I¿am probably not going to leave the state. I always will follow Kentucky football, so my opinion about him coming would be biased because I still love Kentucky.
“He just has to trust his gut and make his own decision. I have never heard a bad thing about Stoops. He sounds like a really good hire and someone that Neal could really work well with. Neal would love it here and fans would love him and his offense. I have no idea if it will happen, but it would be great for Neal and Kentucky if it did.”
It would also be great if Smith could stay at UK, but that’s not likely to happen. However, if Avery Wiliamson, who led the SEC in tackles, makes the all-conference team this year that will be seven straight years Smith has had a player named to the all-SEC team. That’s production for any position coach.
Yet Smith knows Stoops likely will not retain any current assistants, so he’s not sure about his future.
Could he go to another Division I school as a position coach? What about becoming a head coach at a lower level? Would he ever consider a return to the high school ranks where he won five straight state titles at Boyle?
“I have thought about all those things,” Smith said. “I¿am just looking for the best opportunity. I could see myself at this level or a lower level as a head coach. I could even go back to high school. I had a great experience at the high school level and fun time at the UK¿level, too. Any of those three options would be fine with me.”
It helps that his contract — and pay — run through May, 2014.
But couldn’t the head coaching job at Morehead be a perfect spot? The Eagles fired coach Matt Ballard, who had a 102-105 mark in 19 years, after a 4-7 finish this year.
Smith knows about every high school coach in Kentucky, which could be a huge edge in recruiting. He’s proven he can win as a head coach at Boyle. He’s shown he can develop top-notch talent at Kentucky.
While he says there are no location limitations on where he could work in the future since his wife,¿Jackie, is near retirement, he has a son in Bowling Green and daughter in Cincinnati. Morehead would keep him close to both and also give him a chance to run his own program again.
What about salary?
“I was raised in the high school ranks, so we never made a whole lot of money,” Smith said. “Money has never driven me. I¿look more at opportunities.”
So as smart as it would be for UK¿to hire Brown, it would be just as wise for Morehead to turn to someone like Smith to run that program, too.