Bobby Petrino: We're a Good Team

Bobby Petrino discussed several topics at the press conference for the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl on Monday. Here is the complete text.

Here is the complete text of Bobby Petrino's press conference at the media hotel on Monday afternoon.

Opening comments from Bobby Petrino:

"We're excited to be in Memphis. Fun to be back on the practice field this morning. Our players came out with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy. We're a little rusty. We didn't throw the ball and catch the ball like we we need. Certainly our execution wasn't where it needs to be, but that was to be expected. That's why we wanted to get a practice in this morning so we could start our regular routine tomorrow as a normal Tuesday practice and be a little more physical and more like normally would run a practice in a game week.

"Today was to get the cobwebs out and get Christmas out of everybody and get focused on what we need to do the rest of the week. We're certainly excited to be here, have a tremendous amount of respect for the Liberty Bowl and (AZLB executive director) Steve Ehrhart and the group that runs it. I know it's exciting for our players. we know we'll be well taken care of in everything we do outside of football. What's important to me is our players do a great job in their preparation, making sure they come focused and concentrate in our meetings. I think that's a huge part of bowl game preparation, in that we go out and practice well. If we'll do that, if we'll do a good job of preparing in the meetings and practice well, then I think we'll perform well when it gets to Saturday.

"I am excited about our fans, to be able to buy up the tix like we did. Total of 25,500 tickets sold, the allotment that they gave us. Some people have told me we'll have close to 50,000 fans here ofr the University of Arkansas and that's real exciting to me. That says a lot about what our state thinks of our football team, and the excitement that it generates with our players when we take the field I think will really help us. It'll feel like it's close to a home game and we've played well at home this year, so I hope that carries over for us.

"We graduated eight players at mid year, which is very exciting for me. I'm very proud o the young men that graduated. That is what it's all about. That is what college football is all about, being a student-athlete. That was a lot of fun, and to be able to celebrate that at practice and after practice before we left for Christmas was really exciting and put a lot of smiles on everybody's face. But I'm looking forward to our preparation here in the next few days and just getting ready for the game."

Question: There were wide receiver slips in practice Monday at Rhodes College's grass field. Any concerns there?

"Well, I think that preparation will befine. We'll have to battle through some of the elements. I'm not sure it was the natural grass we were on or just not the coordination you normally have. Just those few days off and not geting out there and throwing the ball around and catching it ... I saw it mostly from the receivers and the quarterbacks' timing aspect of throwing and catching. I thought everyone else did a pretty good job on the field.

Question: Could you discuss the evolution of D. J. Williams at tight end?

"You know, D.J.'s a great football player. A year ago we relied on him every down. We had a sr qb that had a great relationship with DJ. We had mostly true freshman wide receivers out there. So his comfort zone was to drop back and throw th eball to D.J. williams. In spring we tried to work real hard at his run blocking and pass protecting and becoming an overall tight end. I got to tell you I respect him tremendously for the effort he put in on that, the concentration. The understanding of the detail of the position.

"He really became that overall tight end that we need. He helps us tremendously in the run game. A lot of times he's involved in pass protection, a lot of time he's involved in the route. Usually when we call his no. he gets open, catches the ball. One of the things about DJ, he's probaly one of the hardest guys on our team to tackle after the catch. We need to get him involved in the game with the ball in his hand as quick as we possibly can, because we have won a lot more games when he catches the ball in games than when he doesn't."

Question: During your practices in Fayetteville, there apparently were more days when it was ones versus ones. Will you continue that here?

"Yeah, well, this is like getting back to a normal game week is what we'll do. it was great, the preparation before we broke for Christmas. We'd spend about 1 hour, 20 minutes on the guys getting ready for this game, then we'd send them down and they'd condition, stretch, lift weights. Then all the young guys got individual attention. Some days we did some group work, and some days we did some team work. it was really getting them in a position where they can compete for a starting job in spring ball. It's really invaluable to get those amount of reps in practice and be coached on every play and have it videoed. So now when we get to the offseason, we can make cut-ups of a guy like Anthony Oden. We came make a cut-up of him on the run game and the pass game and he gets to watch himself execute our offense in the offseason. I think it's invaluable and I really believe that's how you build a team. But now we do transition back to normal game week and everyone understands what that preparation is all about."

Question: Why is your team dangerous?

"The first thing is we have a great attitude. This football team, for the last two years, has come to practice and worked hard, worked with energy and worked with excitement and we did that today. I knew we would throw and catch the ball as well as we normally do or we would like to because we've had a break. That happened even when we took the week off after the season and took off and came back and started practicing before the bowl game.

"So we've got to get that out of us. We'll be a little bit better tomorrow. We'll be a little bit better on Wednesday and by Thursday I'll expect us to not have the ball hit the ground, that we'll complete every single pass in Thursday's practice.

"I think we're an explosive football team and I think we've gotten better as the year's gone on because of our ability to not only throw the ball but run it. And run it with some power. Relying on Dennis Johnson's done a nice job for us. When Broderick Green's in there running the ball, he's very powerful. And then our two freshmen have really come on late in the season, particularly Ronnie Wingo and his ability to run the ball with speed and power. He's generated a lot of big plays. Last night i spent a lot of time going back and watching our games, and watching the games we played well, just to try to get a sense of making sure you don't forget what got us here. Ronnie really stood out in the way he ran the ball with power in those games.

"Defensively it's been about creating turnovers, playing with great effort and running full speed to the ball and creating turnovers and we must do that in this game."

Question: Has it been an easy transition for Garrick McGee as the new offensive coordinator?

"Yeah, I think it's been easy for Garrick because the minute that he came here, he knew in the back of his mind, I'm preparing myself to be coordinator. You know, he knew that. That's how I got him to come here. He was the offensive coordinator at Northwestern and did a great job. To get him to come to Arkansas and coach the quarterbacks, you know, I think it was two reasons he took the job. NO. 1 it was close to Mom and close to Tulsa, which is a good thing; No. 2 is he knew that if Paul was to move on then I would name him the coordinator. It's been something he's been working on since the first day he got here. It's been real easy. we know each other very well. he knows how I am. He knows what I want and how we want to operate everything. And he does an excellent job of stepping in and doing it. The good thing is he's done it before. He's run the show before at Northwestern.

Question: How has Ryan Mallett been able to ignore the distractions and focus on the game?

"Yeah, I think he's done a nice job of that of late. Probably our last three or four practices at home before we broke for Christmas, he was very good. He was very accurate and really into it. He did a really good job today of leading. He didn't complete every pass. We dropped a couple passes. But he kept working and working through it and leading and giving everybody energy in the huddle and making sure our tempo was good. that's what makes him such a good player, is he's a great leader and he likes football. He's going to be well prepared by the time we kick if off on Saturday."

What makes East Carolina dangerous?

"First of all, they can run the ball and throw it, so we have to do a good job on defense getting them off the field. We don't want them to control the football with their quick passing game and their ability to run the ball and have our offense standing on the sideline. WE have to be aggressive on defense and force their hand I guess you would say. Either get them off the field one way or the other. Get the ball back or they score and we get it back. So we do definitely have to be aggressive. Then I'm concerned about their defensive front. They're very good defensive front, they're very active. They're big and physical. I think we have a chance if we can get our RBs in the secondary and get our receivers in the secondary to make some big plays."

Question: Should this be like a home game?

"It should, yeah. And the good thing about our crowd is they're educated. They know when it's third down and they have the ball, then we're going to be real loud and obnoxious and make it hard for them. When it's third down and we have the ball, we're gonna be quiet like we're in church."

Question: Can you address the Urban Meyer situation and the fact your name was out there?

"Yeah, I think the thing is, you said I'm used to it by now. There's times when your name's thrown out there and you're definitely not a candidate, and then there's been a couple of times where I have been.

"When this first came out about Urban, the first thing I think about is I'm happy, I'm healthy, I've got a great job at a great school. I can really relate to it becasue we had Willy Robinson go down this year, ya know, we carted him out of the training room to the hospital in an ambulance. It was very, very scary, ya know. And something that you're always concerned about, something that you understand that we don't do things as football coaches right all the time. We don't sleep enough, we drink too much coffee as I sit here and drink coffee. We don't take care of our bodies as well as we should. I'm just hoping that Urban is going to be all right. he's a great football coach. He's done an excellent job at Florida.

"I'm not sure why HE has so much stress because he ought to be on this side, where you're battling every week to win a game.

Question: Are you still developing the game plan?

"The gameplan is in. We put that in. Before we broke for Christmas we went through a normal Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday practice and ran it like that. now it's about polishing. We'll tinker with it a little bit as we watch more video and we get into the week we'll change some things and some situational work that will I'm sure will change, a couple third down calls, things like that. but the gameplan is in and ready to go. I always have tried to do that for a bowl game is, have a regular week of practice before you came to the bowl site. now we just repeat those. today was getting the cobwebs out. we did some individual work and then a little bit of skelly and then a normal Thursday practice, which was great. we got to go through all the situations we go through on Thursday today. We'll watch that video, we'll make corrections and then we'll come back and repeat it again on Thursday."

Question: There was a spirited practice last week before you broke camp. Take us through that?

"It was nice to get that out of them in practice because it certainly isn't going to happen in the game. I didn't understand they watched that documentary on Miami, but I did hear a couple of our coaches talk about it. They watched it. I know that."

Question: What were they doing?

"Our players? We had a scrimmage actually and went ones vs. twos and live tackle and scrimmage. We had guys make big plays. They threw the ball up in the air and had fun basically. They had a lot of fun out at practice. It was really a good practice for us. The energy that was there before practice, they were talking back and forth a little bit about tackling live. Probably the first two years I coached a bowl game we didn't tackle live when we got to the site. And didn't tackle very well in the game. So we wanted to make sure that we have live tackling and be able to do two things, really. Tackle well and take care of the ball. If you haven't hit like that then sometimes you don't do that. they just had fun."

Question: Will D.D. Jones be available?

"D.D. won't be able to go. He has a high ankle sprain and a knee. that was in that scrimmage. That's the down side of going live is having somebody get injured. So he'll be out for the game.

"It hurts us. he played every game this year and he's a good football player and very physical. but we had other guys rotate in there. Lavunce Askew, Alfred Davis, we also have Pat Jones, they've all played a lot this year. I think it will get more reps for Pat Jones and a little bit more for Davis."

Question: How do you escape from football?

"During the season it's hard. You really don't. I think the best escape I've had is my family. Unfortunately all my kids are grown up now. It used to be a great deal. You go home, you start playing with your kids and you forget all about bringing four week or scrape blitz, any of that. It goes completely out the door. But now that the kids are older, it's a little bit harder than that. One thing that I have tried to do with our coaching staff is make sure they know their families are part of football. So you'll see some of them have their kids up to practice and coming to scrimmages and be out on the field. We have Thursday is family night, which a lot of people do. As soon as practice is over on Thursday, you're to your house and home with your family. I think some of our assistant coach's cars are running in the parking lot on Thursday's just to get a break. But it's hard. It takes a lot of time. I think one thing that has made it even harder nowadays is the recruiting. The early commitments. And the Internet. Keeping up with the Joneses. It's made it more difficult because you recruit every day. You're on the phone every day, you're on the phone every night. Because of the early commitments, I don't really enjoy that as much as I used to. I used to really like recruiting. When the season is over, you went to the site that was your recruiting area, you're out there for three weeks, you knew every single guy in every school that you had in your area. But now it's more national and more going to every area there is. so it's a little more difficult."

Question: How does this bowl help you recruiting Memphis?

"Iit's very important to us. I talked to Tim Horton probably a month ago and said we have to start considering Memphis part of our home state. I don't feel like we've done a good enough job here in the city. there's always good football players here. So we have to do a better job of making the relationships that we've made in our own state with high school coaches. and this really helps. That's why practice is open. It's not so you guys (in the media) can come to practice. It's because if we don't have it open, then the recruits and high school coaches can't come to practice. So that's why the practices are open. We can't talk to them, but they can come and watch and see how we work and I think that's as good as anything."

Question: How have the sophomore receivers grown?

"Tthere's a lot of room for growth. The consistency is a big part of it. We've seen them all have big games and big breakout games. I think right now Jarius Wright is probably the most consistent because he's the guy that's mentally tougher than the other two. But they're all very talented. When they're focused and feeling good they're hard to stop. One thing that's been good is because all three of them can make plays, the quarterback can really read the coverage and just distribute the ball according to coverage. We don't try to force the ball to a particular guy. I think that's why they've all had their share of big games. "I've always said this to you guys: when the offense starts to work the way it's supposed to work, you'll see Childs have a big game one week, J Wright have a big game the next week, D.J. the next week, Joe Adams. We're getting closer to where it needs to be." Question: What gives you confidence your team can win this game? "We're a good football team. We're playing a good football team. I think if we execute and play the way we're capable of, take care of the ball, we have to make big plays and eliminate their big plays, that we're very capable of winning the game. If we don't do those things. If we don't execute and play the game we're supposed to play it, then they're very capable of beating us. And the good thing is, that's about how every game we've played this year has been. The competition and making sure you're prepared week-in and week-out. That's the toughest thng about the sec. You can't take a break. You have to prepare well each week. Any team we play is capable of beating us." Question: Does ECU resemble any team you've played? "I've always had a hard time with comparisons like that. I think the thing you see that stands out is that they have SEC caliber defensive linemen that can really rush the passer and play the run. That's my biggest concern is being able to block their front." Question: Speak on the development of Tenarius Wright as a defensive end? "It wasn't easy convincing him. He came in as a very good middle linebacker. He had a lot of success when we first got him as a middle linebacker. We were ready to make the decision that he was going to split time with the ones and maybe have a chance to start. And then he got the dreaded high ankle sprain and basically missed about a month of practice. So we redshirted him. When we were redshirting him, if we were playing a team that had a great speed rush defensive end, we would move him from linebacker ot defensive end that week in practice. Then you could see his ability to rush the passer, his speed, his knack for bending, his ability to come off the edge. I started thinking, man, this guy might be a defensive end for us. And then we got into the winter program and spring and he didn't run the 40 as well as he wanted to or as well as we wanted him to. Sometimes that's not really a good indicator, but it put another thought in our mind that maybe if we move him from linebacker to D-end he goes from good speed at linebacker to great speed as a defensive end. "And so we practiced him there some. We brought him back in two-a-days and put him back at linebacker. and then he kind of came in and said, you know what, I think I'll have more success as a defensive end and we made that switch. He's a real good player for us. He rotates in. He plays just as many snaps as anybody else. He's very productive. He causes a lot of havoc in the backfield. He's caused a lot of fumbles. And I can't say enough about how much he means to our team. His energy and his smile that he has every day and the fact that he works extremely hard."

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