Petrino More Comfortable In Year Two

HOOVER, Ala. — Bobby Petrino arrived at the Wynfrey Hotel on Wednesday knowing he wouldn't have to face the same firing squad that awaited him a year ago.

He smiled, strolled through the hotel, and aside from a question about Michael Vick, wasn't asked about his time with the Atlanta Falcons on the first day of the Southeastern Conference's Media Days.

"I feel a little more comfortable today than I did a year ago standing up here, I can tell you that," Petrino said, cracking a smile as he stood in front of a room full of reporters.

Last July, Petrino made his debut at SEC Media Days and was immediately bombarded with questions about his controversial decision to abruptly leave Atlanta for Arkansas.

But there appears to be more of a comfort level in Petrino's second year as the Razorbacks' coach, for him and his players.

"Right now, the team has 100 percent bought into his system," said Arkansas defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard, who accompanied Petrino to SEC Media Days. "Me personally, I value his opinion. I value everything he says.

"I know if we follow him, we're going to the top because he knows what it takes to get there."

As the Razorbacks struggled to a 5-7 finish last season, it was apparent that they weren't entirely comfortable with their new coach and his demanding way of doing things.

Players didn't know what to expect when preseason camp began last August, and Petrino's pass-happy offense was all new to them. That, coupled with a number of freshmen being forced to start because of injuries, led to the Razorbacks finishing 7th in the SEC in scoring offense (21.9 points per game) and last in scoring defense (31.2).

"I think what happens is when you come in, change is hard on everybody," Petrino said. "When you have new philosophies, new ways that you work, new ways that you practice, it takes a while for players to adapt and adjust to that.

"Our players have been in our system now for a year. They understand what the expectations are."

Recent history has shown that SEC coaches often have more success in their second year at a school than in their first season.

Urban Meyer went 13-1 and won the first of his two national championships in his second year at Florida in 2006. And a year ago, Alabama coach Nick Saban won the SEC West and finished 12-2 after struggling through a 7-6 season in 2007.

While the expectations aren't nearly as high for the Razorbacks — they're picked to finish toward the bottom of the SEC West — Petrino said he expects to see progress with the addition of quarterback Ryan Mallett, more depth at running back and an improved defense.

Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams admitted there were times last season when he didn't know where to go on a particular play in a game. But he said that there shouldn't be as much uncertainty this season, that the Razorbacks' familiarity with Petrino and his system should result in less mistakes on the field.

"Last year we went into (the season) blind, but this year we know how the offense is going to be. We know how practice is held, how traveling is going to be, what game day is like," Williams said.

"You hear about experience all the time. You really don't understand how important it is until you go through it."



At A Glance

2009 Arkansas Razorbacks Football Schedule

Opponent's 2008 record in parentheses

Date Opponent Site Time

Sept. 5 Missouri State (4-7) Little Rock 6 p.m. (PPV)

Sept. 19 Georgia* (10-3) Fayetteville 6:45 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN2)

Sept. 26 Alabama* (12-2) Tuscaloosa, Ala. TBA

Oct. 03 **Texas A&M (4-8) Arlington, Texas TBA

Oct. 10 Auburn* (5-7) Fayetteville TBA

Oct. 17 Florida* (13-1) Gainesville, Fla. TBA

Oct. 24 Ole Miss* (9-4) Oxford, Miss. TBA

Oct. 31 ***Eastern Michigan (3-9) Fayetteville TBA

Nov. 7 South Carolina* (7-6) Fayetteville TBA

Nov. 14 Troy (8-5) Fayetteville TBA

Nov. 21 Mississippi State* (4-8) Little Rock TBA

Nov. 28 LSU* (8-5) Baton Rouge, La. TBA

*Southeastern Conference game

**At Cowboys Stadium

***Homecoming

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