"We've had a good offseason," he said Monday when he met with the media. "Our strength and conditioning coaches did a great job and we made big gains in the offseason. We are much bigger and stronger.
"I think last year our team just survived (in the weight room). They attacked it this year. We had a lot of personal bests in our testing."
Petrino said the Hogs will continue to work hard in the weight room as spring drills begin with three days scheduled as off days from practice per week.
"But we are all excited to get on the field," he said. "This spring will be a lot about teaching technique, fundamentals and details. We are going to refine our schemes both on offense and defense."
As is the case every year with Petrino, the first order of business is a week of installation.
"We install it all, then come back and install it again," he said. "Then we evaluate what we can do and figure out our strengths."
That evaulation of strengths perhaps starts with the quarterbacks. That will be a three-way battle between Ryan Mallett, Tyler Wilson and Jim Youngblood. Petrino said Mallett and Wilson are probably just a little ahead of Youngblood as far as knowledge of the offense.
"Ryan and Tyler will probably get a little more with the first group right now and Jim will have to earn it," Petrino said. "But we are glad to have Jim because he brings a different style. That's great for us."
Petrino said that the evaluation of Mallett was enhanced because of "455 snaps on tape" Mallett got on Sunday night practices in the fall.
"We have breakdowns on him and cut ups that we have on tape and know kind of what he can do with our offense," Petrino said. "As coaches, we understand his strengths."
And, what are they?
"He does have good football knowledge and he is a quick learner," Petrino said. "An obvious strength, he has a real good arm. He does a nice job in our quick passing game because of his height. He has a lot of ability to throw with his wrist and get the arm up high, so he can get those passes off. He also can move around a little better than you think when you see him first come into a room, better than I thought. He can have excellent movement (in the pocket) and buy some time.
"Wilson has worked hard and gotten bigger and stronger. He can make some throws that help him. He sees down the field and he has shown us that he'll stay in there and take a hit on his chin. We saw that in the Alabama and Florida games. You'd like to say you are going to get perfect protection and that you'll have time to get your feet set and have time, but that doesn't always happen. He has the ability to move and make different types of throws."
Petrino thinks the Hogs will be cleaner in their execution on both sides of the ball this spring.
"That's what we want to see, better execution," he said. "We think we will have better knowledge of what we are doing from all 11 players. What you see on tape of our defense is that they are the same players that were there last year. We should be able to play faster. We should be able to understand the principles of defense better, get off blocks and get to the ball and force more turnovers, understand where the sticks are and the situations. Defense still has a long ways to go, though."
The offense will be molded around the quarterbacks, but that won't come until the fall.
"After you have three installations, you know what your quarterback can do and then you mold it," Petrino said. "The thing that I'm excited about is more depth at running back. We will have more power back there and that will help our quarterbacks and our offense."
Petrino said the fastest player on the team is Dennis Johnson. He was clocked in 4.3 in the 40 in the testing period before spring break. Bobby Petrino said the challenge now is to get Johnson to play that fast. He said Johnson has a lot of confidence after a breakout game to end the season against LSU and carried that into the offseason. Johnson will line up first at RB when spring practice begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
"We want him to get up to that 40 speed as quickly as possible," Petrino said. "We want him to get there faster. He has a tendency to glide and we are going to work to see that speed earlier when he returns kickoffs or takes a handoff."
London Crawford, Isaac Madison and Greg Gatson were the players that were the closest to Johnson in their testing. Petrino added that De'Anthony Curtis was also in the top 10 as far as speed.
Petrino said it's not decided who will take the first snaps at quarterback in Tuesday's first practice. He said it will be up to the quarterbacks to see who jumps in there first.
"Just knowing their personalities, I think I know who will be first, though," Petrino said. "We kinda watch to see who it is. We do script the snaps for the running backs, but not for who is first at quarterback right now."
The Hogs plan to practice outside Tuesday at 4 p.m. for their first day of spring drills, but the weather forecast calls for storms. If it rains, the Hogs will move inside Walker Pavilion. Because of the lack of sideline space, all inside practices are closed. If the Hogs practice outside, Petrino said the workouts will be open.
The Hogs will practice on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday over the next four weeks. They will not practice on Sunday, Monday or Thursday during the period. Spring drills conclude with the Red-White game at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 18.
The first scrimmage will be Saturday, the first day allowed. It will be the one half practice, half scrimmage day as allowed by the NCAA. There will be three other scrimmages.
The NCAA still has not made a ruling on the eligibility of Broderick Green. Petrino said it is not likely that the Hogs will receive that ruling before spring drills conclude. He said Green tested well in the offseason and remains excited and upbeat about his situation at Arkansas, despite not knowing the result of the appeal. Petrino said there will be plenty of snaps for Green in scrimmage situations this spring and that the lack of a decision by the NCAA does not change that scenario.
Mike Smith would be held out of all contact after post-season surgery for a hamstring tear. Lucas Miller also will not practice after having ACL surgery. Marques Wade, coming back from ACL surgery, will have limited practice time. Petrino said Wade has been slow to respond to his rehab. The coach said Wade "should be further along." Elton Ford will have limited practice snaps and is doing very well after sustaining some broken bones in his neck last season.
Ryan Mallett and Ryan Powers are both doing extra work after running into off-the-field problems in the last few weeks, but that both are practicing and competing for jobs. Petrino said, "We are not happy with what happened. Those are distractions. The players understand they did wrong."
As far as position changes, Chris Gragg is going to start spring drills at tight end after picking up about 15 pounds in his first winter offseason with the Hogs. He played last season at wide receiver. Petrino said Gragg's wideout speed will give them a "down-the-field presence" at tight end. Tenarius Wright will begin spring at defensive end. He played both defensive end and linebacker (his high school spot) with the scout team last fall while redshirting. Petrino said Wright was "a great looking pass rush end. He'll give us more competition rushing off the edge, but this doesn't mean he'll stay there."
In the offensive line, both starting guards from last season will try new spots in the spring. Wade Grayson moves from weakside guard to center. Strong guard DeMarcus Love moves to strong tackle. Seth Oxner, the backup center last year, has been moved to strong guard after one of the best winters among any of the offensive linemen. Petrino said Oxner will also still take some snaps at center. Petrino said the Hogs want to develop "four or five" centers.
Petrino praised true freshman Knile Davis, a running back who joined the Hogs at mid-term after graduating from high school early. Petrino said, "He tested off the charts. We look forward to seeing if he can carry the ball. We saw in high school that he can catch it. The has great speed and size. He has a bright future. The thing you have to see about running backs, can they protect the quarterback. That's how a running back stays on the field."
Greg Gatson emerged as a strong candidate at field cornerback with a great offseason. Isaac Madison and Jerrell Norton are listed one-two at field corner, but Petrino said, "Gatson had a nice offseason. He is fast and strong. He's right there with them."
Special teams will be emphasized at a higher level than last spring when that was pushed to the back burner because of all the new things being introduced on offense and defense. Petrino said he didn't think as many freshmen would be on special teams next fall. However, there will not be as much carry over on special teams from last fall because of so many new concepts and schemes for special teams being installed by new assistant John L. Smith.
Petrino said Smith "has already helped us." Petrino said he will lean heavily on player evaluations, something that is his former boss' strength. Petrino said, "I was always very intrigued by his ability to evaluate players and get them in the right positions. I will continue to rely on that ability."
Among the returning starters, Petrino said more is expected of D. J. Williams and London Crawford. Williams, the regular at tight end, has added weight to 245 after playing at around 238 last fall.
"D. J. lost weight last summer," Petrino said. "He's a little bigger. We want him to be more of a true tight end, more of a force. He has to block better."
Crawford, Petrino said, had a "good season," but needs to be better. He said it was probably his fault as playcaller that Crawford was not more of a factor. Petrino also said that with some new talents at quarterback, the deep passing game should improve and fit Crawford better. Petrino said Crawford had a very good offseason. Petrino said, "I have to utilize him better. London did as well as anyone in the lifts and speed improvements in the weight room."
Petrino said that Jarius Wright and Joe Adams had solid winters, too.
"Jarius came on at the end of the season and gave us some big plays," he said. "He got a lot bigger and stronger. He always played basketball and never had the winter to lift and that's helped him. Joe Adams will probably play more slot this spring. We've got to get him more touches because he's so good at yards after the catch."