Breaking Out The Weapons

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino cracked a smile and looked like a man who was taking pleasure in not revealing any of his secrets.

Now that you have plenty of running backs at your disposal, how do you plan to use returning starter Michael Smith?

"Sure, there's a plan. I'm not going to share it with all of ya'll or anybody else," Petrino told a room full of reporters. "But we have a plan. We have an idea how we want to operate it."

A few days later, Petrino was asked if he still intended to use backup quarterback Tyler Wilson to shake things up at some point in today's season opener against Missouri State in War Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Petrino insisted Wilson would play, but again he cracked a smile that let everyone in the room know that he's keeping his plans close to his vest.

"I got a plan, yeah," Petrino said. "I'm not telling you."

Petrino has an abundance of offensive weapons heading into his second season at Arkansas, especially with the additions of running backs Broderick Green and Ronnie Wingo Jr. But good luck trying to get Petrino to provide any details on how he intends to use all of them.

Tonight will be the Razorbacks' first opportunity to show all the different ways they can take advantage of new starting quarterback Ryan Mallett paired with a stable of shifty tailbacks and speedy receivers.

And for a coach like Petrino, who's known for being an offensive guru, the possibilities are endless.

"Going into this first game, because (Missouri State) went to a 3-4 (defense), there's a couple formations that we might not run as much as we have in the past," Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said.

"But we have a good game plan. We still have a lot of plays in there. We just go out and look to execute."

Even Arkansas' players admit they're excited to get on the field and see what the offense can do now that Mallett, with his strong right arm, is running the show.

It also doesn't hurt that Smith will finally have some help in the backfield or that last year's crop of freshman wide receivers is a year older and talking about having breakout sophomore seasons.

And as if that weren't enough, Petrino has floated the idea of changing things up at the start of the second quarter by pulling Mallett and inserting Wilson into the offense.

"The more weapons, the better," Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams said. "The thing that I think coach Petrino has done a great job about (in) utilizing all these weapons is finding a way to put them into the offense with packages and everything else.

"He's using everything we got in our arsenal and I think that's just a great approach to it."

While Casey Dick opened last season with a pair of 300-yard passing games, the quarterback had his limitations. He struggled at times with his decision-making, and he was more accustomed to managing a game than being the focal point of the offense.

But Mallett is the type of strong-armed quarterback that better suits Petrino's Pro Style offense. The 6-foot-7, 238-pound sophomore has a fiery personality and an intense competitive streak, and he gets more "jacked" the bigger the stage.

"The first game of the season is always the starting point. We don't need to come out sluggish," said Mallett, who started three games at Michigan in 2007. "We need to come out there on fire and rolling and not missing too many easy things. We need to come out there and just make plays."

Of course, Arkansas' offense could experience some growing pains against Missouri State, considering that there are always some glitches that need to be worked out after a season opener.

But the Razorbacks hope to make enough plays to avoid a repeat of last year's season-opening scare against Western Illinois, which plays in the Missouri Valley Conference like Missouri State.

In that game, Dick rallied Arkansas from a 10-point deficit with less than 11 minutes remaining to avoid a major upset. But plenty has changed since then.

In particular, Mallett and Smith won't be watching from the sidelines like they were a year ago and there will be more offensive weapons surrounding them when they take the field.

"I want to see us go execute, go do things that we've practiced, execute the run game, execute the pass game just like we've practiced it," Petrino said.

"... We should be much faster in this game than we were in our opener a year ago simply because most everybody's back and has been through it before."

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