Redskins

John L. Smith takes over at Fort Lewis

John L. Smith takes over at Fort Lewis

John L. Smith used to coach in packed Southeastern Conference stadiums.

His new place barely holds 3,000 fans.

Smith went up against teams like Alabama that were contending for national championships.

Now, he will get to face squads in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

Smith was hired Wednesday to coach tiny Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., a Division II school coming off an 0-10 season, after being let go by Arkansas.

He will make around $67,000 a season, which will be renewed on a year-by-year basis, and only have 16 or 17 scholarships to dole out.

That's a long way from SEC football.

Only, he doesn't see it that way.

``The big time is simply where you are,'' Smith said in a phone interview Wednesday night. ``We're going to try like heck to make it work here. I'm really fired up. I'm always fired up.''

Sure, Smith had more lucrative offers to become a position coach somewhere else once he completes his duties as a consultant for the Razorbacks (his last day is Feb. 23). But this quaint mountain town located about 330 miles southwest of Denver is simply his kind of place. Plus, he's reunited with athletic director Gary Hunter, who gave Smith his first head coaching job at Idaho in 1989.

``To get a quality coach like John L. Smith, we're very fortunate,'' Hunter said. ``When this became a possibility, I called him up and said, `Durango is a gorgeous spot to live, why don't you come on over here and put this program back together?'''

That was enough enticement for Smith, who's an avid skier and now will be surrounded by some of the best powder skiing in the world.

The sides have yet to formalize their deal. So far, a simple handshake agreement has been sufficient. Smith is expected to begin his new assignment on March 1, the school announced.

``When he gets here, we'll march into human resources and get a contract,'' Hunter said.

He chuckled over the phone.

``Not exactly what's going on in the NFL or SEC, huh?'' he said.

Smith was hired away from Weber State last April to step in for ousted Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, just weeks after a scandal erupted following Petrino's motorcycle accident that involved his mistress.

The Razorbacks had high hopes under Smith, especially after starting the season ranked in the top 10. But the team struggled to a 4-8 record and the John L. Smith era came to an abrupt close.

So now the 64-year-old former Michigan State and Louisville coach has an opportunity to resurrect his career in Durango, a city with a population of around 17,000. He has plenty of work to do in turning around the Skyhawks, a team that's only had 10 winning records in 50 seasons as a four-year school.

``To me, it's a situation where we're going to have to work hard to try and get the excitement up, get the program going in the right direction, win some games and graduate our kids,'' Smith said.

His final coaching stop?

``I don't know. This is the next door that's open,'' Smith said. ``But if it's the last place I coach, I couldn't think of a better place. We've fallen in love with Durango.''

In 19 seasons as a head coach, Smith has compiled an impressive record (136-94) and picked up a few accolades (Big Ten coach of the year at Michigan State in 2003) along the way. He's also been to seven bowl games and captured six conference titles.

This hiring is definitely a coup for the school.

``Fort Lewis College is making a commitment to football,'' Hunter said. ``Many of our other programs have reached the pinnacle of success at the national and regional levels. We want our football alumni and fans to have the opportunity to enjoy that same success.''

Hunter isn't expecting an immediate turnaround.

No, that's asking too much out of his good friend.

``Our first goal is to be competitive, to be respected,'' Hunter said. ``Then, maybe we can attract recruits and other good football players, because winning takes care of itself.

``The one beautiful thing about John L. is this: What you see is what he is. There's not a dishonest word out of his mouth. I knew him when he wasn't making anything at Idaho and then making big money at Michigan State. He's the same guy. He's the same down-home, fun-loving guy.''

Smith replaces Cesar Rivas-Sandoval, who announced his resignation a week ago after three seasons and a 6-25 record.

Among Smith's assistant coaches will be Skyhawks defensive coordinator Ed Rifilato, who played for Smith at Idaho and also served as director of football operations under Smith at Louisville in 2002.

``He's a great player's coach,'' Rifilato said.

Smith can't wait to get to work.

``We need to win some games and get this snowball rolling,'' he said.

Quick Links

2019 NFL Draft Big Board: Quinnen Williams, defensive prospects dominate the final top 100

bosa-standig-official.png
USA TODAY SPORTS

2019 NFL Draft Big Board: Quinnen Williams, defensive prospects dominate the final top 100

It’s the final countdown.

Here is the final NBC Sports Washington NFL Big Board for 2019. This ranking of the top 100 prospects in the NFL Draft comes from a combination of homework and NFL sources.

Before diving in, some notes…

*The Redskins met with Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. Tuesday, sources told yours truly and JP Finlay. Savage is one of the true risers in this class with a 20-40 draft projection. Teams eyeing the free safety include the Colts, Patriots, Chargers and Redskins, per sources.

Of those teams interested in Savage, only the Redskins’ current picks are outside of that 20-40 range. The key word there might be current.

Senior VP of Player Personnel Doug Williams told reporters Monday that there’s a “great possibility” of a trade down from 15 depending on which players remain on the board. The interest in Savage isn’t with the current pick, but if they move down.

*For all the quarterback talk, where the offensive line run begins could drive the first round.

While the Jaguars might select Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor seventh overall, the span to watch is 9-12. Offensive line ranks among needs for these four teams (Bills, Broncos, Bengals, Packers) and several prospects, including Alabama’ Jonah Williams and Oklahoma’s Cody Ford are worthy of consideration in this range.

However, OL isn’t the top priority for any of the four. My latest mock draft had all going with another position. The final debate will come down, in part, to whether the teams think they can address their line needs on Day 2.

The butterfly effect comes with teams selecting 15-23. The Redskins and Panthers (16) would surely focus elsewhere. The Vikings would still have a viable option in NC State center Garrett Bradbury, but the Seahawks (21), Ravens (22) and Texans (23) would probably move in other directions. This scenario also improves the chances that Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom and Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy go in the first.

Ford is considered the top guard prospect, making him an obvious option for the Redskins.

* Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat remains a top 10 prospect on this list, but that’s without a true understanding of his enlarged heart condition. According to a source familiar with the situation, some teams are comfortable with his situation while others removed the athletic freak from their draft board.

Not sure if we can infer there’s a potential slide coming with Sweat declining his invitation to attend the draft. My expectation is he remains in my final mock draft with the Panthers at 16 and Seahawks at 21 as the floor.

*If you missed it, I recently shared league thoughts on the passers. Not to get all indecisive, but at this point, I could see four selected by 17 or two sliding deep into round one. From a draft range perspective, Drew Lock’s feels the largest, stretching from 10 to 32.

*Using some Vegas prop bet lines for the first round, I’d go under on one running back and 2 1/2 wide receivers. Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown is the only receiver I feel good slotting into round one, but D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and N’Keal Harry won’t wait for long on Day 2.

*Make sure to check out the updated two-round NFL mock draft and our look at different 7-round, Redskins-only mock drafts. Paths onetwo and three are just a click away.

NBC Sports Washington’s final 2019 NFL Draft Big Board

1. Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama                                          

2. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State                                      

3. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston                                           

4. Devin White, LB, LSU                               

5. Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky         

6. Montez Sweat, DE, Miss. St.                                                                                                 

7. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa                                       

8. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma                                 

9. Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan                                      

10. Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson        

11. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida                                  

12. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama                                            

13. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson                          

14. Cody Ford, G/T, Oklahoma                                  

15. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Miss. State                       

16. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State                                       

17. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson                                                  

18. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington                                        

19. Brian Burns, DE, Florida State                                            

20. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU                                    

21. DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia                                              

22. Andre Dillard, OT, Wash. State                                          

23. Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma                                      

24. Johnathan Abram, S, Miss. St.                                            

25. Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame                              

26. Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State                                        

27. Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State                                            

28. N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State  

29. Chris Lindstrom, G, BC                                          

30. Darnell Savage, S, Maryland                                                            

31. A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi                                 

32. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa                              

33. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi                                            

34. Erik McCoy, C, Texas A&M                                  

35. Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama                                  

36. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke                                      

37. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri                                          

38. Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple                                      

39. Taylor Rapp, S, Washington    

40. Irv Smith, TE, Alabama                                         

41. Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington                                        

42. Nassir Adderley, FS, Delaware                                           

43. Chase Winovich, LB, Michigan                                           

44. Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State                                       

45. Jaylon Ferguson, DE, La. Tech                                           

46. L.J Collier, DE, TCU                                 

47. Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia                                     

48. Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama                                  

49. Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State                                        

50. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida                                           

51. Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State                                           

52. Oshane Ximines, DE, ODU                                   

53. Dre'Mont Jones, DE/DT, Ohio State                                 

54. Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State                                       

55. Connor McGovern, G, Penn State                                     

56. Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia                                    

57. Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame                              

58. Elgton Jenkins, C, Mississippi State                                   

59. Gerald Willis, DT, Miami                                       

60. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama                                        

61. Ryan Finley, QB, NC State      

62. Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson                                            

63. David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State                                 

64. Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis                                      

65. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford                                

66. Zach Allen, DE, Boston College                                          

67. Lonnie Johnson Jr., CB, Kentucky                                      

68. D'Andre Walker, LB, Georgia                                                      

69. Jachai Polite, LB, Florida                                      

70. Chuma Edoga, T, USC                                           

71. David Long, CB, Michigan                                    

72. Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State                                        

73. Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State                                     

74. Joe Jackson, DE, Miami                                        

75. Amani Hooker, S, Iowa                                         

76. Yodny Cajuste, T, West Virginia                                         

77. Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State                                

78. Chuma Edoga, T, USC                                           

79. David Long, CB, Michigan                                    

80. Greg Little, T, Mississippi                                     

81. Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M                                  

82. Charles Omenihu, DL, Texas                                

83. Damian Harris, RB, Alabama       

84. Michael Jordan, G, Ohio State                                           

85. Dawson Knox, TE, Mississippi                                            

86. David Edwards, T, Wisconsin                              

87. Andy Isabella, WR, Umass                                   

88. Dru Samia, G, Oklahoma                                      

89. Christian Miller, LB, Alabama                              

90. Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic                               

91. Sean Bunting, CB, Central Michigan                                                            

92. Nate Davis, G, Charlotte                                      

93. Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia                                        

94. Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford                              

95. Michael Deiter, G, Wisconsin                              

96. Ben Powers, G, Oklahoma                                   

97. Emanuel Hall, WR, Missouri                                   

98. Marvell Tell, S, USC                                

99. Dionte Johnson, WR, Toledo         

100. Terrill Hanks, ILB, New Mexico State      

MORE REDSKINS NEWS

Quick Links

The Browns called the Redskins 15 years ago hoping to trade up for Sean Taylor, but the Redskins said 'no'

The Browns called the Redskins 15 years ago hoping to trade up for Sean Taylor, but the Redskins said 'no'

Thanks to his illustrious career at Miami, Sean Taylor caught the eyes of Joe Gibbs and the Redskins heading into the 2004 NFL Draft.

Not surprisingly, though, Washington wasn't the only franchise interested in adding a do-it-all, safety-in-a-linebacker's-body prospect to their defense.

In a terrific look-back at that draft from Sports Illustrated — a draft in which a record six Miami products went in the first 21 picks — you'll find this excerpt:

But at the last minute, the Browns, owners of the No. 7 pick, called asking to trade up. Butch Davis, Cleveland’s coach and EVP, had previously been the head coach at Miami and had recruited all six of these Hurricane prospects out of high school...

[Vinny] Cerrato says the Browns were coming for Taylor. Davis is more diplomatic about it: “It was probably about 60-40 that we would’ve taken Sean [over Winslow],” he says. He wanted to know what it’d cost to get Taylor. But Washington wasn’t budging. “There was no interest whatsoever,” Cerrato says. “We wanted Sean Taylor.”

Cleveland also reportedly contacted the Giants about their fourth overall selection so they could skip the 'Skins entirely, but New York ended up orchestrating their own deal to land Eli Manning.

Fortunately, the Burgundy and Gold stayed in place and got Taylor despite the calls. Often times, trading back in the draft is an attractive option. This time around, however, that option paled in comparison to the opportunity to acquire Taylor.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS