State of the Hogs: Bobby Petrino

Bobby Petrino's first year was too busy for fly fishing, but there was plenty of fun watching the installation of new systems.

It's been a long 12 months. Our rivers have been up after record rains left area lakes at the top of the spillway at summer's end. The only thing more depressing for an old trout fisherman is a look at the 401k.

If you are an aging fly fisher, that's a bad combination.

There was some good news in the last year, namely Bobby Petrino. There usually isn't much fun in a 5-7 season, but I enjoyed it more than most would guess.

Petrino brought hope and lots to discuss on the Arkansas football front. It was plain old football talk, too.

You ask Petrino a football question, he can fill your notebook. He'll explain technique. He'll talk Xs and Os. He's specific in his answers if you ask good questions.

And, if you want to sprinkle in a little trout fishing, he can walk the talk there, too. I'm hopeful that he can find some of those bamboo fly rods he thinks are somewhere in his house, the ones handed down from his grandfather.

Petrino is excited there are trout waters nearby. He grew up fishing the Missouri River in Montana with his grandfather, but hasn't lived near good trout water since.

"I'd like to get them out again, if I can find them," he said. "I'm not sure exactly where they're at."

In his defense, he hasn't looked real hard. He's been too busy to fish. And, like I said, the rivers have been swollen as our flood-control reservoirs (Beaver, Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Norfork, Greers Ferry) empty. That's about done.

There is more good news, as far as I'm concerned. Petrino's tough first year is done, too.

The growing pains have been obvious. Putting 16 true freshman on the field is a good news/bad news story. The Hogs will benefit long term, but this year was a huge learning experience.

All of that youth is probably one reason the Hogs had to fight so many injuries. There are few 18-year-olds with enough strength training to survive SEC football. As Petrino mentioned Wednesday, those youngsters learned they have a long way to go in the weight room.

To say the future is bright is an understatement. By most accounts, recruiting is going well and some will play immediately, much like this season.

However, it won't be as easy to walk in and claim a spot. The returnees have an advantage over the newcomers — a full year in Petrino's system. I like everything about the system. Petrino can flat out coach. His attention to detail amazes.

Not too much slips past him. For example, when he walked into the media conference for his season review, he mentioned the possibility of a Hawgs Illustrated Jinx.

"I picked up two of the last issues, who's on the cover, Michael Smith and Lucas Miller," Petrino said. "We might have something working here. They both got hurt the next week."

I reminded Petrino that he'd been on the cover three times.

"Well, I've been hurt a lot in that time," he said. "I just never showed it."

That makes sense. Often we don't know much about the injury report.

It's not the first time in the 17-year history of the magazine that there's been speculation about an HI Jinx. I tried to defuse that quickly and had something for the head coach afterwards. No one was on more covers than Darren McFadden and he was always ready.

All of this is to note Petrino's ability to lighten the moment. He's heavy on the business side, but I've seen the other side plenty.

I liked the side I saw just after the victory over LSU. As excited as he was afterwards, he was under control, too.

After the usual post-game handshakes, he made it to the locker room in routine fashion. Then, while some players were still celebrating, Petrino headed down the ramp to the field in the northwest corner. He hugged his wife and other family members. With fans in that corner chanting "Bobby, Bobby" one booster shook his hand and pointed to the middle of the field.

"Go out there and wave to them, Bobby," the booster urged. "Take a victory lap in the stadium."

Petrino wasn't having any of that. "I just want to see my family, hug my wife," he said. "No, I came back to find her."

I couldn't help but think of the past. Petrino's predecessor didn't need any urging to take a victory lap or lead the band.

There will be more chances for victory laps. My prediction is that this coach won't do any until there is something really big to celebrate. That day is closer than it was 12 months ago.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories