In the question an answer period at the end of a club meeting in Searcy on Thursday night, a fan tried to pin Bobby Petrino down on the specifics of the new defensive scheme Paul Haynes is installing at Arkansas.
Petrino didn't take the bait. That question met a stone wall.
"I'm not going to talk about that," he said, then laughed. "I'll say absolutely nothing. Zero! Come watch us.
"Really, though, with him, it's not about Xs and Os or scheme. When I interviewed him, he explained he coaches technique and how to be a close cohesive group. He said the majority of what we do is centered on how to tackle and technique. He explained how he got seniors to lead and how he taught the secondary to read pass routes."
Petrino did say it's an exciting time for him as Haynes puts in the scheme. Petrino knows spring drills are going to be fun with all of that in mind.
"We've lost a lot of production in our defense, guys like Jake Bequette, Jerry Franklin, Jerico Nelson and Tramain Thomas," Petrino said. "But the new scheme will be exciting to watch this spring. I'm anxious to see how that plays out this spring.
"I think Coach Haynes changed our defensive attitude a little. It's not Xs and Os. He works harder on tackling drills and fundamentals. I think we tackled well and flew around in the bowl game. It excited me to watch it."
Petrino said he's been excited with the winter strength and conditioning program under Jason Veltkamp. There are two phases.
"We lift four times a week in the afternoons, that's Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday," Petrino said. "There's also three days where there is individual drills organized.
"Then there is the MAT drills and that's 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday and Friday. It's change of direction, conditioning and some drills related to the game of football. And we push them real hard."
The push is the key part of the early workouts.
"We want to get them tired and see how they follow directions," Petrino said. "That's how you win. When you are tired, do you do what you are coached to do. That's what the MAT drills do, set the standards.
"I like what I see in this group. The seniors -- those guys like Tyler Wilson, Dennis Johnson, Ronnie Wingo, Chris Gragg and Knile Davis -- those guys who have been productive for us, they are leading us."
Petrino was asked specifically about offensive tackles. He went into some detail on both sides.
Jason Peacock is down to 305 (from 330) and is a different player, all good. Petrino said he made mistakes last year, but in his defense was just trying to "survive" in the offense. He will be a much better player. Looks like an SEC athlete now at that weight.
"He's a tremendous athlete," Petrino said. "He didn't do everything right last year, but he's committed now and is a tremendous talent with great feet and a great punch."
Grady Ollison will battle with Peacock in the spring at one of the tackles. Petrino said , "He's got a chance to be a special, special player. He's got a really good punch and he's very smart."
At the other tackle, Brey Cook will battle with Chris Stringer and Austin Beck. Petrino said all three are doing well. Cook is regaining his strength in the weight room after mono decked him in December. Petrino said, "Mono really took a lot out of his weight lifting, but he'll be back to where he was soon."
The head coach said Stringer got a medical hardship granted after injuring his back two games deep into last season. He'll still have three more years of eligibility.
Beck is at 6-8, 305. He's going to work at both guard and tackle. The thought was that he's more of a tackle because of his length, but he's impressed with his ability to bend and that will help him to make a run at guard, too, if he's needed.
Petrino said Mitch Smothers would stay at guard, the position he worked at for bowl practices. He said that seemed to be his best spot. Smothers opened the year as a starter at tackle.
The head coach said he likes what he sees in the winter program from wide receivers Jevontee Herndon and Julian Horton and he said Marquel Wade is getting stronger, something he needed.
"Herndon and Horton have made plays for us," Petrino said. "Herndon is very talented. He may be our strongest player for his size. Horton did a nice job when Joe has been out. Those guys have played and been productive."
Petrino said the ejection and one-game suspension Wade received for the play at Vanderbilt was a blow to the freshman wide receiver.
"He's very, very talented," Petrino said. "We all know about the penalty he received. He didn't come back from that very well. It hurt him. He was embarrassed. It took a while for him to get over it.
"But he has the same kind of ability as Joe Adams. He needs work in the weight room to get stronger. He was 180 and there were times that he'd get knocked off his legs that he wouldn't have gone down had he been a little stronger. Jason Veltkamp is working with him to get stronger in the hips and legs with some work in the weight room."
Junior college transfer Austin Flynn will stay at defensive end. Petrino thinks he'll play there next year in the spot left by Jake Bequette. There had been some talk of Flynn trying middle linebacker.
"He has an opportunity to start at end," Petrino said. "We lost Jake and he was very productive, but Austin is almost exactly like him. He's 6-5 and 260. Jake was right at 270. Austin is fast and extremely fast and he may be stronger than Jake. I'm impressed by what kind of teammate Austin is. He has a great personality. You see him encouraging his teammates everywhere you look. I expect him to play extremely well next year. He's got speed and power and I think he will convert that to the field."
Petrino was asked about his love for northwest Arkansas and how that played a part in the new contract he signed.
"I think it's very similar to Montana -- we love the lakes and the golf courses," he said. "We do love the small college atmosphere. It's a place where we think we can grow the program and win a national championship."
There was a follow up question. Does he have a place in the design of the new football operations facility for a national championship trophy?
"No, but I'm not afraid to verbalize it," he said. "When we talked about a national championship a few years ago, someone said, 'You are building expectations too high.' No, I said. We are going to keep trying to climb that wall. There may be sometimes we jump at that wall and we hit it. We are going to keep trying to jump over it. We have a lot of work to do, but we are going to do it."
Petrino Anxious to Watch Defense
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