Petrino Plans To Keep Staff Intact

FAYETTEVILLE — Despite missing the postseason for the first time as a head coach, Bobby Petrino said he has no plans of making any changes to his coaching staff at Arkansas.

Over the past few weeks, there has been speculation that Petrino could shake up his staff following a 5-7 season that saw the Razorbacks struggle on defense and make costly mistakes on special teams.

But Petrino said Wednesday that he has no intentions of replacing any of his assistant coaches, adding that he was pleased with the work they did in their first season in Fayetteville.

"I anticipate no movement in our staff. Sometimes there's always a coach that walks in and has an opportunity somewhere else," Petrino said during his season-ending news conference Wednesday afternoon. "I certainly feel like our staff worked extremely hard and did a good job in the transition.

"They are good teachers. They are very detail-oriented and pay a lot of attention to detail. We got better as the year went on and played a lot of young guys."

Along with showing support for his staff, Petrino said he doesn't want to take away responsibilities from any of his assistants or change anyone's title.

Since Arkansas isn't eligible to play in a bowl game this season, seven of Petrino's assistant coaches will spend this week traveling to meet with recruits.

"A lot of time you wouldn't do that, but with us not having a bowl game, it's good to do that," Petrino said. "It allows the assistants to get out, get in the homes and get to the (high) schools first. I'll hit the road on Monday and start doing home visits then."

Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson and defensive ends/special teams coach Kirk Botkin were two assistants who faced some challenges in their first season with Petrino.

The Razorbacks experienced some growing pains on defense, relying on several newcomers to play immediately and try to slow down the high-powered offenses of top-ranked Alabama, No. 2 Florida and No. 3 Texas.

Arkansas finished the regular season ranked last in the Southeastern Conference and 92nd nationally in scoring defense, allowing 31.2 points per game.

The Hogs also finished last in the SEC and 72nd nationally in total defense, surrendering 375.2 yards per game and collapsing late in losses to Florida and Kentucky.

But Petrino came to the defense of Robinson, who became Arkansas' highest-paid assistant football coach when he agreed last February to a three-year deal worth $350,000 annually.

Petrino said injuries contributed to the defensive struggles this past season, adding that there were times when as many as nine freshmen and sophomores were forced to play together because of the lack of depth.

Robinson also had success in bottling up LSU's offense and holding the Tigers to just 304 yards of total offense in Arkansas' 31-30 season-ending win last Friday.

"I think he did a very good job," Petrino said of Robinson's performance this past season.

Meanwhile, Botkin's coaching stint at Arkansas got off to a rough start when special-team mistakes forced the Razorbacks to rally to beat Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe in the first two games of the season.

Arkansas struggled with its special teams throughout its first losing season since 2005. The Hogs had trouble finding a consistent kicker, and while they led the SEC in punting (37.8 net yards per attempt), they finished last in the league in kickoff coverage (36.5 nypa.).

"I think we need to improve in our special teams, (the) consistency obviously of our field-goal kicking and place-kicking," Petrino said. "I think we need to improve in our coverage teams.

"I thought there were some games where we were real good and some games where we gave a lot up (of yards) like the last one (to LSU). That's not something we want to see happen."

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