Bobby Petrino: Staff Intact

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino conducted a review of the season with media Wednesday. The first question concerned his coaching staff. Petrino took questions for almost 45 minutes.

Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino said Wednesday he "does not anticipate" any staff changes following the completion of the season.

Petrino met with the media Wednesday following a 5-7 season, his first with the Razorbacks. He said he was pleased with the "attention to detail" and the overall progress the coaches made with teaching individual technique and fundamentals.

Specifically, he was asked about defensive coordinator Willy Robinson. Petrino went through the youth of the defensive side of the ball, noting there were times where four true freshmen and five sophomores were on the field at one time.

"Our staff worked extremely hard," Petrino said. "They worked hard in the transition this year. They were detailed oriented. I don't anticipate any changes. I don't see any movement."

About Robinson, Petrino said, "He did a very good job. At times, there were four freshmen and five sophomores out there at the same time. We were very young. In camp, we threw the entire package at them, then we tried to find out what they could do.

"Personally, I'd like to be more physical. I think we all felt that way, but we understood as coaches and players where we were. There were times we had to put everyone on the line to stop the run and then leave the corners on an island and at times we still couldn't stop it.

"We need to improve in all areas, including special teams. We need to improve our coverage. Sometimes coverage was good, then sometimes, like the last game, we didn't cover very well.

"Some of the improvement will come with experience. But we need to get stronger and faster. Our young players certainly understand that after what they just faced this season (in the SEC). They are motivated to improve."

Asked about specific areas that pleased or disappointed him, Petrino said, "I've always had a hard time with words like greatest, best or biggest. What I can tell you is that I was proud that we continued to improve. I thought we came to practice, worked hard and had a good attitude. We got better with techniques and fundamentals. As far as disapointment, I'd start with Kentucky. We had complete control for three and a half quarters. Losing that game is why we are sitting here right now. You can't give games away. There are probably nine plays that if you look back and say 'what if' that we win the game."

Here are some other topics:

• There was praise for the way the team fought in the final game. Petrino said he'd watched the tape in detail. He said, "Our team played hard and gave good effort. We had a good plan, especially with the offense early and the defense in the second half."

• Petrino confirmed that Michael Smith had surgery for a torn hamstring last week. It's unlikely Smith will be cleared for all aspects of spring practice, but he might be able to do limited work. Also, wide receiver Lucas Miller is scheduled for surgery later this week after tearing a knee ligament against LSU. Miller will miss spring football, but should be able to play in the fall.

• No players have asked for their releases. He does not expect any current players to transfer. On Nathan Dick, he expects the quarterback to compete in the spring with the other quarterbacks on campus -- Ryan Mallett, Tyler Wilson and Jim Youngblood. Dick's injured thumb has required treatment this week and there is some swelling, but it's responding to the work by trainers.

"The quarterback job is pretty wide open," Petrino said. "I think everyone is looking forward to the competition and the competitive nature of that position. I'm looking forward to it."

Petrino praised Mallett. He said the transfer "had a good redshirt year. He had tremendous natural leadership. He steps into the huddle and demands respect from his teammates. He's good at that.

"He did a tremendous job on working extra on his quickness. He dropped 20 pounds. He went from 260 to 245 and really did a nice job of handling what is a hard year. It's hard to sit back and watch."

As far as Mallett's leadership, Petrino said the staff decided after the second game "to take him on the road and have him on the sideline. He has a real chance" to be a good player.

"He has to work on his footwork and learn to avoid the rush," Petrino said. "He has to learn to make all the throws and to take something off some passes. He throws it too hard sometimes. He can be more accurate. When he does things right in his footwork and his lead shoulder, he's very accurate. When he doesn't, he's not as accurate. The good thing, we got a lot of video on him on Sunday night and during the bye week and he has that to study."

• Petrino had praise for several redshirt freshmen. Nose tackle Alfred Davis, linebacker Tenarius Wright and offensive tackle Matt Hall drew special mention. He said all three are solid prospects. Davis came to school over weight, but worked his way into shape and was "a load to block" on the scout team. Wright had a high ankle sprain after moving into the rotation with the first team in August. Hall worked as the backup at offensive tackle, making all trips.

"Davis is a lot like Zach Stadther in that he understands blocking schemes," Petrino said. "He did an excellent job.

"Wright was a player who came to camp with a great mindset. He was looking really good until the injury. He's got a chance to be really good. He could be an inside linebacker, move outside, or he might be a cross between those two or we could play him like the Texas linebacker and drop him down to end to rush the passer.

"We are extremely excited about Hall. He has tremendous ability. He has good strength in the upper body, but he needs to get stronger in his core and his legs so he can handle a physical defensive end. He was like a backup tackle. He got ready to play, but we were able to protect his redshirt."

• Mitch Petrus is expected to return after sitting out this season because of eligibility issues. Petrus was a returning starter at offensive guard. He spent time working on both the scout team and at times helping with the depth on the second team in practice.

"He did a good job whether it was on the scout team, or with the offense," Petrino said. "We are counting on him. He needs to do everything to (be eligible). He did a nice job throughout the season. He has very good leadership potential."

• The offense should be better if for no other reason than the added experience in the new system installed by Petrino.

"I expect us to be better," Petrino said. "We should know more in another year. Sometimes you hear someone say that for a freshmen, everything is a new day. Well, it is like that. With a freshman, there is not a lot of carryover from day to day. You'd like to add things, but this year we were not able to do that. Now what we expect is that not every day is a new day.

"The youth of this team is one of the reasons that we were not able to add a lot. Instead of adding, we were cutting back at one point this season. We had to reduce some things so we could play fast.

"Our offensive line should be a lot better. We gave up way too many sacks. A lot of that was not because of the offensive line. Some of it was mistakes at running back, wide receiver, tight end and quarterback. We'll be a lot better in those areas.

"I think we will have a better understanding of a lot of things. We will be better in fundamentals and technique."

Petrino noted the graduation of All-America center Jonathan Luigs.

"We will miss Jonathan," he said. "He did a lot of things for us up front. But, we will be better in some ways when some others learn not to depend on him to tell them so much. They will have to learn it and they will be better because of it."

• The head coach said the recruiting would be heavily geared towards finding more linemen, but he also wants to "recruit a fullback. You really need two fullbacks. There were times late in the year we were better with a lead blocker, but there were other times we didn't have one. Some games we couldn't play a fullback. That's a tough position. There are a lot of collisions. Van Stumon helped us there, then he got hurt."

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