Quarterback Ryan Mallett does an interview with the Bobby Petrino coaching triangle behind him.
Outside the team meeting room there is a new graphic, the Bobby Petrino coaching pyramid. Mitch Petrus said players helped come up with some of the ideas for it because they knew what their head coach emphasized on a daily basis. One of the top lines of the pyramid included a word that Petrus likes ... punish.
"I think a lot of people have heard of John Wooden's coaching pyramid and this is Coach Petrino's version," Petrus said. "These are the things that we go by in practice, what is brought to us by Coach Petrino every day. I like the one right up there (pointing to punish). It's all there, everything Coach Petrino has given us. I think it's a good representation of the things he coaches."
At the top is CHAMPION in big letters. Then, the pyramid breaks down into seven levels and includes such catch phrases from the Petrino theme like "Showtime, Focus, Technique." The bottom line, in huge letters is no surprise -- Ring the Bell.
There was a lot to digest on media day, perhaps the longest in school history. It started with breakfast around 7:45 a.m., then concluded with lunch followed by sessions with three coordinators.
There is plenty here from the coaching perspective, starting by the news that players voted six captains: DeMarcus Love, Michael Smith and Ryan Mallett for offense, and Malcolm Sheppard, Wendel Davis and Adrian Davis for defense.
Captains were voted on by the team when they met for the first time this week. As for Mallett's status as a sophomore, Bobby Petrino said, "Leadership is demonstrated, not announced." He said the vote by players reflects the leadership demonstrated over the summer.
Speaking of leadership, defensive coordinator Willy Robinson told the media that Rudell Crim has the same kind of leadership that Michael Smith displays. He said he will most likely develop into a leader of the team just like Smith, Crim's friend from childhood.
Special teams coordinator John L. Smith likes the way Alex Tejada has come back this fall. He said he's gotten more flexible and is swinging his leg better, faster and more conistently. On the battle for the punting job, they probably are a little more comfortbale with Briton Forester since he's been in games beyond the high school level, but Smith said Dillon Breeding has a very impressive leg. They will compete and see who can get the ball out the quickest and most consistent.
Paul Petrino praised Dennis Johnson's improved attitude in practice this fall after two practices. He said the competition at running back has forced him to step up because they have a deep stable. He also said London Crawford seems to be able to finish practice better than a year ago and that's probably some maturity and a realization that the stable is deep at wideout, too.
Smith asked for yellow goal posts in the stadium -- to match the goal posts in most other stadiums around the country. He said he was surprised they were still white at Arkansas. He said kickers "like" yellow because it stands out. He said that white blends in.
The competitive situation at running back is highly interesting, according to the head coach. There hasn't been much to separate anyone through two days, but Petrino said the key points are ahead in that regard.
"At running back, we'll see who gets through the next week and a half," he said. "We will make sure who doesn't break down mentally or physically."
As far as the quarterback competition, Petrino was asked about the decision to perhaps play two, something he mentioned after spring.
"We've got a long way to go before we decide that," he said. "If you will remember, I began that by saying if we were going to play this Saturday night. Ryan got most of the work with the ones the first two days. Tyler got a little of the work with the ones and the work with the twos. I'm still excited about both. Definitely, they need to be a lot better. We are evaluating them every day. We need to wait and see."
Petrino said he has yet to "yell" at John L. Smith, his former mentor.
"He used to yell at me when I worked for him and I haven't (yelled) at him yet," Petrino said. "I might do that today just to do it."
Asked what he'd like to see as far as a pass percentage for quarterbacks in his system, Petrino first threw out "100 percent." That produced some chuckles before he dropped his expectations a little.
"We had a quarterback (Stefan Lefors) who probably ran it a little more when he thought some guys were covered and he got his up to about 75 percent," Petrino said. "Kevin Scanlon still holds the record of 68 percent. We'd like to break that. We are going to set that as a goal."
Robinson likes what he sees from juco transfer Anthony Leon, but noted conditioning isn't there for the big, rangy safety.
"He is still struggling with (conditioning), but my impression of him is 'My goodness, wow,'" Robinson said. "He's a big, big man. He's 6-4. As far as his weight, he's dropped a little. He's at 223 right now."
The good news, Robinson said, Leon won't stand out in the huddle as much as he would last year because the Hogs are bigger everywhere.
"We are bigger and faster," he said. "The young ones don't know it all yet. Darius Winston and David Gordon don't understand our technique yet and that's what you win with, technique. But they are practicing hard. They do have great skill. They are competing at a high level. They have great recovery ability."
Petrino said Crawford made plays on slants the last two days better than he made a year ago and that might "add to his film resume." Petrino said the film resume from practice determines what plays are called to "feed the studs" and that Crawford is building his with more plays to pick from now.
In the early session this morning, Bobby Petrino covered a lot of topics, but a name that came out that has not been mentioned much is freshman offensive line candidate Alvin Bailey. Petrino said Bailey, 6-5 and 323 from Broken Arrow, is going to be an "exceptional player" and indicated it may be difficult to redshirt him.
Asked about young players, D. J. Williams singled out Bailey, too. Williams said, "Mark my word, he is going to be a great one." Mike Summers raved about Williams, too, while also noting Zhamal Thomas and Anthony Oden have impressed, too.
Petrino doesn't use the word "great" often. But he did use that word in describing Bailey's future. He said, "He's going to be a great player for us."
Petrino and offensive line coach Mike Summers both had high praise for center Seth Oxner, now working with the first unit ahead of Wade Grayson. Oxner moved to the first unit about midway through the summer after impressive work in the weight room. He has jumped over 400 pounds in his bench press and continues to add strength. Oxner is 315, compared to Grayson's 296.
About Oxner's move, Petrino said some of the decision to move him to the first team was the "way he took control of the leadership in the summer ... and when we evaluated everything that happened in the spring. It's still a very competitive situation at center. In the spring, we rotated them around and we think both can play center or guard. Now we need to solidify center."
Summers said center is like a lot of spots on the offensive line, highly competitive. He said it's a good feeling to be three deep in the offensive front. He also noted the big improvements Matt Hall, perhaps the third tackle, continues to make in the weight room. Hall is now 328 and has tree trunks for arms ... long tree trunks.
Juco transfer Zhamal Thomas is playing weak guard, battling Grant Cook. But Summers said it could be that one of the candidates on the other side ... and that might be Bailey ... could be that weak guard. Summers said the goal is to find a way to get the best five on the field and that could mean some shuffling around in the next week or so.
Kareem Crowell, said Summers, is still battling conditioning problems. He hasn't played football in a couple of years and hasn't been up to the speed of practices. It's just been a long layoff with some rust.
DeMarcus Love is up to 315 and that's about 12 pounds heavier than he played at last year. He is leaner, too. That's a nice combination. He said he feels better at this weight than he did last year as far as movement and quickness.
Knile Davis should be back towards the end of this afternoon's practice. Hopefully, he'll be back in time to take part in some of it, so it can count as one of his two days without pads. He was on his way to the airport during media day. Of course, he is returning from his father's funeral.
One of the funnies that Bobby Petrino dropped on the media early this morning had to do with overall height of the team, something that obviously improved. The new class is VERY tall. It'd call them trees. Lots of 6-5 to 6-6 guys on the team now. Petrino said he wants "basketball players not wrestlers. That's what I tell my brother all the time, I mention it in front of him. My coaches sometimes bring me what looks like a good player and then I ask them about their size. I tell them I'm not interested when they give me the size."
Paul Petrino laughed about that. He said. "I was a wrestler. I think Bobby gets a kick out of reminding me about that." Bobby said, "I will say that I got some good trips out of that. I remember getting to go to San Francisco when Paul was 10 and he wrestled in some kind of AAU wrestling tournament." Paul said, "We do like to see them play basketball. You can see their competitive nature and intensity on the basketball court. There have been some decisions made after we saw two wide receivers play basketball. We picked the one we liked better playing basketball."
Mitch Petrus handles an interview in the stadium.
Photos by Marc Henning