Learning from Petrino
SPRINGDALE - Arkansas had four extra people in its quarterbacks meeting room while the Razorbacks prepared for a crucial home matchup against No. 15 Auburn.
An ESPN camera crew was present and filming footage for the Hog-centered episode in the network's Depth Chart series focusing on quarterback development.
Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee and quarterbacks Tyler Wilson and Brandon Mitchell were miked up throughout the week leading up to the conference showdown with the Tigers. UA assistant media relations director Derek Satterfield was tasked with preventing the cameras from interfering with Arkansas' game preparation by Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino.
The extra attention didn't affect the game. The Razorbacks pulled away in the second half for a 38-14 win over Auburn.
"Just the ultimate distraction going into one of the biggest games of the season," McGee said Wednesday at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club. "I do like the way our kids handled it. I think they did a really good job with it. I'm glad we won the game because Derek (Satterfield) probably would not be here right now with me. Coach (Petrino) would have probably got rid of him."
The offense racked up 438 yards of offense in the win, appeasing Petrino.
McGee shared several stories about Petrino's well-documented intense demeanor with the crowd at the luncheon.
The team was headed to Williams-Bryce Stadium for an important conference game against South Carolina last season when a train cut off the team bus. Several minutes passed, but the train still hadn't.
Director of Football Operations Mark Robinson took the blame for that.
"Coach Petrino looked at Mark and said, ‘Can't you do something about this?'" McGee said, drawing a big laugh from the crowd.
Petrino's attitude is something McGee said he plans to emulate if he lands a head coaching job.
"What I have learned from him is there's someone in charge at our program," McGee said. "We have someone in our program that sets the standards, that forces everybody to work at a certain pace. He puts pressure on us on a daily basis. All the coaches. All the players. So that when pressure shows up in the game, we're not afraid of it or we don't hide from it. Things need to be done right.
"So, yes, he is intense. I think that is the reason our kids are able to perform at a high level when the pressure's on. I played for Coach Petrino, so I've been under this umbrella since I was 18 years old now, since I was 17.
"There's a formula that's working. Whatever it is, it's working."
McGee, a second-year Razorbacks' offensive coordinator and fourth-year assistant, could get the opportunity to draw on what he's learned from Petrino sooner rather than later.
McGee has helped coach an offense ranked at or near the top of the SEC in his tenure at Arkansas. He interviewed for the Tulsa head coaching position following last season.
This season, he's mentored first-year starter Tyler Wilson. The junior has thrown for 1,779 yards and 12 touchdowns through six games and is on pace to break Ryan Mallett's single-season passing marks, prompting one of the members of the audience to ask McGee if Wilson might declare early for the NFL Draft following the season.
"Tyler's not one of those kids that looks ahead," McGee said. "Tyler was born and raised in Arkansas. This is like the NFL to him. Being the quarterback for the Razorbacks. When we played Missouri State our first game of the season, we were out there in warmups and the announcer said, ‘Starting at quarterback for the Razorbacks, number eight, Tyler Wilson.' He just lit up because he had been waiting for the announcer to announce that his whole life."
McGee is also coaching sophomore backup Brandon Mitchell, redshirt freshman Jacoby Walker and highly-touted true freshman quarterback Brandon Allen.
"I tell Tyler all the time, you're on a thin line," McGee said. "You're on that line that says you can win the Heisman or you can be benched and one of these other guys is out."
Allen, the son of Arkansas defensive line coach Bobby Allen, has impressed the coaching staff in practice and in his ability to pick up the offense in the meeting room.
"What I didn't realize is that he's such a fast and willing learner," McGee said. "I can teach Brandon something. The way I do it is I teach him something on the board, then I go off and start talking about something else. Then I come right back and ask him to explain what I taught him five minutes ago just to see how fast of a learner that he is. He's really fast, man. Which means he can learn throughout the game. That's why Brandon is so exciting to me. He can take a picture of something and he's got it."
Allen, Mitchell and Walker will have to wait until Wilson leaves for their chance to shine.
"Tyler was willing to wait and continue to learn and grow as Ryan Mallett was out there playing for us," McGee said. "Brandon (Mitchell) has been patient. He's a great teammate. When his time comes, he'll get out there and play good ball for us. so that's what we have. Then Brandon Allen will be the next guy unless he beats them all out. I'm really happy with where we are."
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