Petrino's Patience

Recruits unfazed by Arkansas not having defensive coordinator as new Razorback coach Bobby Petrino head into the final few days of recruiting for the 2008 class

Zach Stadther has no idea who Arkansas' next defensive coordinator will be.

He assumes it will be someone qualified, but he doesn't know for sure.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino hasn't told recruits who he plans to hire to replace Ellis Johnson, who resigned as the Razorbacks' defensive coordinator on Jan. 24 to accept the same position at South Carolina.

It might not be the ideal situation for Petrino and his assistants. But with National Signing Day only three days away, it appears Arkansas has done just fine recruiting defensive players despite not having a defensive coordinator on staff.

"(I was) a little concerned, but they'll probably get a good defensive coordinator. So I'll probably like him," said Stadther, a two-star defensive tackle from North Little Rock.

"I've always wanted to play for the Razorbacks, so it doesn't matter to me who the defensive coordinator is."

Petrino's 10-day search to find Johnson's replacement has been extremely quiet. He hasn't spoken with reporters about which candidates he's considering for the job, and no one else seems to be talking, either.

Everything has been kept secret, though all indications point to Petrino waiting until after National Signing Day on Wednesday to hire a defensive coordinator.

But apparently, Johnson's departure two weeks before the biggest day of the recruiting season hasn't taken much of a toll on the Razorbacks.

"I think (Johnson leaving) is somewhat of big deal just because of the timing of it. You know that could never be good," said Tom Luginbill, national recruiting director for Scout Inc. and a recruiting analyst for ESPN.

"You never want to lose a guy that late in the process, especially when he's running your defense, from a perception standpoint.

"If it's something that happens in October, I think you're much more off to recover from it and really not see any ill effects. I don't think it's a great thing for (the Razorbacks), but I don't it's a killer, either."

Losing a defensive coordinator doesn't typically have the same effect on recruiting that an offensive coordinator leaving for another job would.

That's because quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs tend to be more concerned with playing in a system that best suits their abilities.

Arkansas, however, isn't the only Southeastern Conference school that is recruiting without a full-time defensive coordinator on staff.

LSU has secured another top 10 recruiting class despite having to make up for the loss of Bo Pelini, who came to LSU after National Signing Day in 2005 but was hired in December to be Nebraska's new coach.

As for Arkansas, Luginbill had the Razorbacks ranked No. 25 nationally.

Meanwhile, the Hogs were ranked No. 32 by Scout.com and No. 42 by Rivals.com on Saturday.

"Actually, you know what? I think their class is a lot better than people are giving them credit for, to be perfectly honest with you," Luginbill said.

"I think anytime you've got a coaching change at the time in which they had one, it's very, very difficult. You're so crammed for time, coaches are trying to hire coaches. You're trying to get everybody into the bowl. It's not an easy process."

Johnson was considered a steal when Petrino hired him away from Mississippi State to be his defensive coordinator in late December.

But Luginbill said he hasn't noticed Johnson's departure three weeks later having any ill effects on Arkansas' recruiting class.

While the class remains heavy on offensive playmakers like quarterback Tyler Wilson (Greenwood High) and running back De'Anthony Curtis (Camden Fairview High), the Hogs have picked up some defensive help.

Defensive tackle Lavunce Askew, Curtis' high school teammate, and] linebacker Jelani Smith from Abbeville, La. are expected to bolster an Arkansas defense that struggled down the stretch last season.

And Stadther could emerge as a pleasant surprise.

As for who will be Arkansas' next defensive coordinator, that remains a mystery to most everyone but Petrino.

Former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta was mentioned early on as a potential candidate, but he joined Notre Dame's staff last week as an assistant head coach for defense.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has also been talked about lately as a candidate, but he's believed to be in consideration for the South Alabama head coaching job.

For the time being, though, Petrino has bigger priorities than filling out his coaching staff. He's trying to wrap up his first recruiting class at Arkansas.


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