LEXINGTON, Ky. – Twenty-five year coaching veteran, Michael Smith, has been named the wide receivers coach at Kentucky, head coach Mark Stoops announced Friday.
“We are truly excited about the opportunity to be a part of Big Blue Nation and Kentucky Football,” Smith said. “Coach Stoops and his staff have done and continue to do great things here. My goal is to continue developing this group of wide receivers, helping them accomplish all of their individual goals and the goals of the team. My family and I are so appreciative of Mark and Chantel and we look forward to a great career in Lexington.”
Smith, who has earned the reputation as being one of the best recruiters in the nation, joins the Wildcats’ program after five seasons as the wide receivers coach at Arkansas. While in Fayetteville, Smith took over a wide receivers corps 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.
In those five years, he helped the Razorbacks advance to three bowl games and recruit top-35 classes each season, including top-25 classes in 2015 and 2016.
Also in the 2015 and 2016, Smith and his receivers were key cogs in the success of the Razorbacks’ passing game. Arkansas became one of just three Southeastern Conference teams to pass for more than 3,300 yards in back-to-back seasons. His 2016 roster included three players who had 1,000 career receiving yards and two with over 100 career receptions. Wideout Jared Cornelius equaled an Arkansas single-season record with three straight 100-yard receiving games, while Keon Hatcher’s eight touchdowns ranked fifth in the SEC. Drew Morgan’s 65 receptions tied for fourth in the league.
In 2015, Smith’s wide receivers totaled 22 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards.
“I’m very excited to have Michael join our staff,” Stoops said. “I’ve known him since his outstanding playing career at Kansas State. What a super competitor he was in college and he brings that same competitive nature to coaching and recruiting. I’m excited to have him continue to develop our wide receivers and take them to another level.”
Smith, a native of New Orleans, spent the first 11 years of his coaching career at his alma mater, Kansas State, nine of them as running backs coach. Between stints at Kansas State, he served one season (2006) at Rice coaching the running backs and two seasons at Arizona as the running backs coach (2007) and inside receivers coach (2008).
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, only the sixth Owls’ running back in history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark at that time.
In his two seasons at Arizona, he coached alongside Stoops, who was the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. In 2008, they helped lead the Wildcats to a win over BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. Also that season, Smith tutored Mike Thomas, who became the Pac-10 career receptions record holder with 259 grabs. In 2007, Smith coached true freshman tailback Nic Grigsby to a 700-yard performance in seven starts, emerging from reserve to full-time duty.
He returned to Kansas State in 2009 to take over the wide receivers under head coach Bill Snyder. During that four-year period, he helped guide the Wildcats to three straight bowl games – 2010 Pinstripe Bowl, 2011 Cotton Bowl and 2012 Fiesta Bowl.
In 2009, Smith tutored All-American wide receiver/kick returner Brandon Banks, who set school and Big 12 records in kickoff returns and led the squad in receptions (56) and receiving yards (705). He also led the Big 12 and was eighth nationally with his 174.8 all-purpose yards per game average and ranked third in school history with 3,828 career all-purpose yards. He ended his career ranking seventh in K-State history with 123 career receptions and ninth in career receiving yards with 1,754.
In 2010, Smith tutored a wide receiver group that saw numerous players step up and contribute, including All-Big 12 wide receiver Aubrey Quarles.
True freshman Tyler Lockett earned All-America honors in 2011 as a kick returner and made an immediate impact at the wide receiver position for Smith. He set the Big 12 and Kansas State single-season record for kickoff-return average at 35.2 yards per return.
Smith, who named one of the top 10 recruiters in the Big 12 Conference in 2012 by Rivals, saw Kansas State capture its second Big 12 title that season and advance to the Fiesta Bowl. The Wildcats posted an 11-2 record and finished the year ranked No. 12 in the AP poll. Under Smith’s tutelage, Chris Harper led the team with 58 receptions for 857 yards and three touchdowns and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors.
As a graduate assistant in 1995 and 1996, Smith assisted Greg Peterson with the receivers, helping tutor wide outs 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.
In nine seasons as a running backs coach, Smith saw his pupils score 284 rushing touchdowns, including a school-record 53 in 2002. Smith has also coached four former backs in the National Football League, Rock Cartwright (Washington, Oakland), Joe Hall (Kansas City), Josh Scobey (Arizona, Seattle, Buffalo) and Darren Sproles (San Diego, New Orleans, Philadelphia).
During his playing career, Smith was known as one the Big Eight Conference’s all-time great receivers. He concluded his playing career as the Big Eight’s second-leading receiver with 179 receptions, trailing just Oklahoma State All-American Hart Lee Dykes. The total of 179 catches ranked 40th in NCAA history at the time. Smith was named third-team All-America by the Associated Press in 1991 and honorable mention All-America in 1989 by the AP and UPI. Smith was also a two-time All-Big Eight selection (1989 and 1991).
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.
Smith also posted three of the top four games in K-State history with 179 yards vs. New Mexico (1990), 174 yards vs. Washington (1991) and 172 vs. Nebraska (1991). Smith also owned three of the top five reception games in school history, including 13 catches for 166 yards vs. Missouri in 1989. He led the Big Eight as a sophomore in 1989 and was seventh in the nation with 70 catches for 816 yards. In 1990, he had 46 receptions for 796 yards in 1990 and tallied 55 for 768 in 1991.
All totaled, Smith has coached in 18 bowl games.
Smith graduated from Kansas State in 1995 with a degree in social science. He and his wife, Karyn, have four children: Kylie, Kenzie, Kason and Kamryn.