Petrino Sees Positives Throughout Offense

Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino has taken the Fighting Illini by storm. A fiery, dynamic presence, Petrino is a whirlwind on the field and in the team meetings. He demands perfection, and he gets results. It may be his first year as sole coordinator of a major college offense, but he looks like someone who has been doing it all his life.

Paul Petrino has shared the job of offensive coordinator in the past, but he had to defer to his brother Bobby. Now in charge at Illinois, he has imprinted his brand on the offense and made a positive impression. It remains to be seen how he calls a game, but there is no doubt he knows how to install an offense and develop a team.

Petrino has been pleased with the progress, although there is still much to do.

"I think we've made some good strides. I think the starters are starting to understand a little bit. It's good to see us make a lot of big plays. We ran the ball pretty well all spring, and we're good on some of our play-action. So we've got to keep working hard, keep grinding."

Speaking shortly before the Spring Game, Petrino gives a glimpse of his offensive philosophy.

"It's showtime. It's game day. We want to put on a show. As an offense, we want to make a bunch of big plays, fly around and be exciting. And then once you get a lead, then smash-mouth and run the ball down right down their throats."

With both experience and depth, the running backs were a team strength all spring.

"I think we've done a good job in the running game. I think we've got some good backs, our line's done a good job. Running game is all 11 guys, and we've done a pretty good job on it. We've got to continue to improve, but definitely that's one of our strengths."

The offensive line is improving, but losing starting tackle Corey Lewis to ACL surgery hurts. At times, the line blocked well for the runners, and at other times their pass protection was highlighted. Petrino wants consistency at both aspects.

"I think they've done some good things. We've got to get it where they are good at both on the same day."

Petrino' comments about the quarterbacks were shared elsewhere, but developing a consistent signal caller is mandatory for a successful season. Petrino is working with quarterback coach Jeff Brohm on that aspect.

The receivers are his responsibility. He put them through their paces all spring, harder than they have ever been worked. Even a knee injury that will require surgery didn't slow Petrino, and he is making sure his receivers don't slow up either.

"We've still got to keep improving, but we've made strides. I think A.J. (Jenkins) has had the best spring, no question. (Jarred) Fayson has done some good things, Jack (Ramsey) had some good days, Steve Hull did a couple things. We've just got to keep battling.

"And we've got some freshmen coming in. At that position you can play. There are spots open, and you can get a lot better in the summer. Especially at quarterback and receiver. You've just got to keep battling and keep fighting."

The word "battling" seems to be Petrino's central focus. If the offense battles on the field as hard as he worked them this spring, they will earn the respect of their opponents and fans.

However, the players must now work on their own until Camp Rantoul begins. That's three months without coaching supervision. Do they know what they need to do to prepare properly?

"They know. Everyone works their butt off over the summer. It's not like when I was growing up. At two-a-days, you'd wonder who's come back in shape. But now they work out all summer. They know what they've got to do, and they'll be working hard on their own. A lot of that will be on the quarterbacks. They're the ones that run it."

If Nathan Scheelhaase, Jacob Charest and Chandler Whitmer bring everyone together frequently, they and the receivers will be able to improve their timing prior to fall. It is up to them to do the work.

"The receivers run their routes, the quarterbacks understand their reads and progressions, which ends up being the timing. When you're good, they police themselves. At every good program around the country, they police themselves. Make sure each other's working hard."

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