The Gophers allowed a total of 274 points in 2017 under Smith. The 274 points were the fewest that Minnesota allowed under a first-year head coach since 1978 when it gave up 267 points in 11 games. The 274 points were the fewest amount of points that Minnesota gave up in a season since 2004 when it yielded 273 points. Minnesota opponents averaged just 22.8 points per game in 2017, which was tied for the fourth fewest for a Gopher team since 2000.
Smith came to Minnesota from Arkansas where he spent three seasons as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach.
In 2016, Smith’s defense was at its best in the second half, as Arkansas allowed only 51 points in the third quarter and 73 in the fourth quarter. His defense also yielded only 12 passing touchdowns in 13 games, while it made 10 interceptions, forced 14 fumbles and recovered 11.
In 2015, his defense excelled against the run, as Arkansas held 12 of 13 opponents below their season rushing average. The Razorbacks allowed only 116.46 yards per game on the ground, which ranked second in the Southeastern Conference and 12th in the nation. Most notably, the Razorback defense did not allow a running back to rush for more than 100 yards in regulation, which included both LSU’s Leonard Fournette (91) and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry (95) from national champion Alabama. Fournette and Henry averaged 162.75 and 147.93 yards rushing per game respectively.
In 2014, Arkansas ranked No. 10 in both scoring defense (19.2 points per game) and total defense (323.4 yards per game). It was the first time since Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992 that the Razorbacks had finished in the top 10 in either statistic. In that same year, the Arkansas defense posted an improvement of 11.6 points allowed per game, the largest turnaround in the SEC and the seventh-best improvement in the nation. Arkansas became the first unranked team in college football history to post back-to-back shutouts of ranked opponents when the Razorbacks blanked No. 20 LSU and No. 8 Ole Miss.
Smith spent the 2013 season as linebackers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after 14 years of collegiate coaching experience, which included four seasons at Rutgers University where he was defensive coordinator and secondary coach in 2012.
In 2013 with the Buccaneers, Smith coached second-year linebacker Lavonte David. David was named a first-team All-Pro that season. David was one of 12 defensive players in the NFL recognized on the first-team defense. He started all 16 games and recorded 144 tackles, 6.0 sacks, five interceptions, 10 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, David was the first linebacker in NFL history and third player to register at least 100 tackles with at least six sacks and five or more interceptions in a season, joining Rodney Harrison in 2000 and Dave Duerson in 1986.
The 2012 season saw Rutgers claim its first conference title since 1961 and the fifth in school history. The Scarlet Knights finished the year ranked fourth in the nation in points allowed per game (14.2), sixth in rushing yards allowed per game (95.2), 10th in total defense (311.6 yards per game) and tied for third in rushing touchdowns allowed (6). Rutgers allowed just 91 points against seven Big East opponents, ranking as the eighth-lowest total in conference history. The defense held opponents to 95.2 rushing yards per game, only the third time in school history the Scarlet Knights kept the opponent average below 100 yards.
Prior to 2012, Smith served in various capacities on the Rutgers staff including special teams coordinator and linebackers coach in 2011, special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach in 2010 and special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach in 2009.
Under Smith’s guidance, Rutgers became one of the best special teams units in college football. The Scarlet Knights ranked in the top 10 in blocked punts each of his three years coordinating the unit. Rutgers led the country in 2010 with nine blocked punts, tied for second in 2011 with nine and ranked eighth in 2009 with five. While Smith was at Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights led the nation with 31 blocked kicks. They were also one of the best in the nation in punt and kick returns for touchdowns, tying for fifth with five punt return touchdowns and tying for ninth with four kickoff return touchdowns. Their nine combined special teams touchdowns tied for the fifth-highest total in the NCAA during that time.
Before going to Rutgers, Smith worked at the University of Maine as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator (2006-08), special teams and linebackers coach (2005) and defensive backs coach (2002-04). Under Smith, Maine boasted one of the top defenses in the FCS, highlighted by the 2006 team that ranked first in rush defense, second in total defense, third in sacks and fourth in scoring defense.
A 1997 graduate of Allegheny (Pa.) College with a bachelor’s degree in economics, Smith was a three-year letterwinner at strong safety. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Iowa from 1999-2001 and earned his master’s degree in communications studies from Iowa in 2002.
Smith and his wife Amy have two children, Charlie and Jack.
SMITH AT A GLANCE
2017-present: Minnesota - Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
2014-17: Arkansas - Defensive Coordinator / Secondary
2013: Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Linebackers
2012: Rutgers - Defensive Coordinator / Secondary
2011: Rutgers - Special Teams Coordinator / Linebackers
2010: Rutgers - Special Teams Coordinator / Cornerbacks
2009: Rutgers - Special Teams Coordinator / Outside Linebackers
2006-08: Maine - Assistant Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator
2005: Maine - Special Teams / Linebackers
2002-04: Maine - Defensive Backs
1999-2001: Iowa - Quality Control / Defensive Graduate Assistant
Playing Experience: Allegheny College (safety), 1993-96
Hometown: Leechburg, Pa.
High School: Leechburg High School, 1993
Alma Mater: Allegheny, 1997 (economics); Iowa, 2002 (communication studies)
Sons: Charlie and Jack
Player Profile: Tyler Johnson
6/15/2018 - Football
Tyler Johnson had one of the best seasons in school history for a sophomore receiver in 2017.
U Mourns Loss Of Keith Fahnhorst
6/15/2018 - Football
Minnesota mourns the loss of Keith Fahnhorst. The St. Cloud native, who lettered for the Gophers from 1971-73, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 66.
Elite Access: Freshman Move-In Day
6/7/2018 - Football
Several of the newest Gopher Football student-athletes arrived on campus earlier this week. Check them out in this video! Elite Access presented by Cub.