|Title:||Head Football Coach|
Ricky Smither returns for his seventh year at the helm of the Northeast Mississippi Community College football team entering the 2014 campaign.
Smither’s Tigers fielded a 4-5 overall record last season, but compiled a 4-2 mark against Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division competition to finish in the runner-up position for the seventh time in program history and the third occasion in the last four years.
Eight Northeast student-athletes were tabbed as MACJC All-North Division for their efforts, including first-team selections Kortilous Ellis and Mitchell Cunningham. Six more Tigers, including Khalil Stinson, Daniel Ross, Chris Cooper, Jamel Dennis, Marcus Robinson and Dequinten Spraggins, were placed on the second-team.
Under the tutelage of Smither, Dennis averaged 10.7 tackles per game, which was 10th best among all players in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). Twelve men continued their playing careers at either the NCAA Division I or II levels, including quarterbacks Jeremy Liggins and Jerrard Randall at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and the University of Arizona, respectively.
Raymond Gee, Michael Davis and Sean Rogers were honored as MACJC Academic All-State selections. Gee and Davis both earned NJCAA Academic Student-Athlete Awards as well for maintaining a grade point average (GPA) above 3.6 on a 4.0 scale.
Smither’s journey as commander-in-chief at Northeast first presented itself on July 3, 2008 when he became the 13th head coach in school history.
In his opening year as head coach, Smither's overall record was 1-8. However, he was able to improve to 2-6 in 2009 with three of the six losses going into overtime.
One of the biggest wins for the Thibodeaux, La., native since becoming the go-to-guy at for the Tigers came in a 28-21 victory over archrival Itawamba Community College in September 2009.
Smither proved that he was the man for the job as his program continued to get better in 2010. The Tigers posted their 12th winning season in the college’s 51-year football history at 5-4 with a 4-2 mark in the MACJC North Division.
Smither helped Northeast garner countrywide attention during week six of the season after the Tigers knocked off defending MACJC State Champion East Mississippi Community College 49-42 in a shootout in Scooba. Northeast running back Jaquise Cook ran for 267 yards and four scores against the Lions and was named the NJCAA Player of the Week for his performance.
In addition to posting Northeast’s initial winning season since 2005, Smither and the Tigers also caught the eyes of the national media when they were included in the NJCAA football rankings at No. 18 after his squad opened the campaign at 5-2.
The Tigers missed the playoffs due to MACJC tiebreaker rules that season, but Smither led his bunch past that threshold one year later.Northeast finished 2011 with a 6-3 record and clinched a postseason berth for the first time in six years. Their 4-2 mark in league play for the second year in a row placed them as the MACJC North Division runner-up behind eventual NJCAA National Champion East Mississippi.
In the semifinal round, the Tigers took MACJC South Division champ Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College to extra periods before falling short of advancing to the state title matchup by a field goal.
Smither began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Delta State University in 1995 and later accepted a position at Cleveland High School in 1997. He received his inaugural taste of MACJC football in 1998 by joining the staff at Coahoma Community College.
From 1999-2006, Smither enjoyed stints at Cleveland East Side High School and H.L. Bourgeois (La.) High School while also working at the NCAA Division I level as an assistant at Mississippi Valley State University (2002-04).
Smither came to Booneville in February 2007 as an assistant coach with a primary focus on the offensive line. Just over a year later he agreed to become Northeast’s headman.
Since becoming the head coach, Smither has annually assisted his sophomores in extending their gridiron careers to four-year universities. Some of his most recent players to move on were tight end Logan Stokes (Louisiana State University), defensive lineman Lavon Hooks (Ole Miss), running back Jay Jones (University of South Alabama) and defensive lineman Parrish Huddleston (University of Alabama at Birmingham).
Four former Tigers that starred under Smither have also signed professional football contracts in the past two years. They include Deion Belue with the National Football League’s (NFL) Jacksonville Jaguars, Brynden Trawick of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, Ross with the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Edmonton Eskimos and Josh Jarboe of the Indoor Football League’s (IFL) Bemidji Axemen.
Smither graduated from Delta State with a Master's Degree in Education. He and his wife Lynn have two children, Russ and Kaitlyn.