Paul Petrino On Play-Calling: "It's A Blast."

The first football game of the season is a time for untested veterans and rookies to taste their first action. Nerves are a factor as it takes awhile to relax, stop thinking and play with abandon. Some coaches are in their first games also. For instance, the Missouri game will be the first time Paul Petrino has been in charge of an offense by himself.

Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino offered suggestions to his brother Bobby at Louisville and Arkansas, but the Missouri game will be the first time he must take sole responsibility for play calls. However, he doesn't see this as a new experience.

"It's not that much of a difference. Years ago I did it when I was with my dad. I did it with my brother. It'll be a little bit different because we don't have each other to lean on, but the good thing is I've got a bunch of good coaches around me.

"I've got Coach (Jeff) Brohm, I've got Coach (Chip) Long, who's worked with me before, I've got Coach (Joe) Gilbert and Coach (DeAndre) Smith. We've been game-planning together."

There's no doubt he has a keen understanding of who receives credit for success or blame for failure and is ready to accept that responsibility.

"To be honest with you, many of the calls are made before the game's even done. A lot of the calls we already know what we're gonna call. We make adjustments as the game goes on, but we're all in this together. If it works, we all did a great job. If it doesn't work, it's all my fault."

Petrino is no uptight newcomer. He was born to be a coach and raised to call plays. Of all the things he does as a coach, that is what he enjoys most.

"Yeah, that's the best part. If every scrimmage was 200 plays, I'd love it. Competition, calling the plays and executing them, just the fun of trying to dissect it and make the right calls. I think it's a blast.

"I did it as a little kid with my football cards. I did it watching games with my dad. What do you call, how do you attack? Watching film with my dad. He taught me how to attack defenses."

Illinois has already spent a great deal of time preparing for Missouri.

"We've been working on them throughout camp, and some in spring ball. Now it's actually against the looks that Missouri is running."

Game planning is a complicated process, so much of that work is completed early.

"We usually do a game plan in the off season, and then you kind of fine-tune it in the summer. Once you get back from Camp Rantoul, you go through it to see what things you do best. We put that into our game planning and put it all together. Then play the game."

Does he have a rotation scheduled for the several running backs and receivers expected to see action Saturday?

"We have a feel for it, but a lot of times it's who's hot. To be competitive, whoever is hot, that's who you keep feeding."

Petrino coaches receivers, and he enjoyed the most depth on the team at Camp Rantoul. He has since lost Jack Ramsey and Steve Hull to fill holes in the defensive secondary. But he believes he still has enough firepower to do what he wants to accomplish.

"We lost a couple guys to defense, but it's the right depth."

Freshmen Darius Millines and Ryan Lankford are listed on the depth chart. Does he expect them to play?

"I would guess that they would, but we'll see."

Petrino was asked whether there is now more pressure on the offense to score since the defense appears vulnerable to giving up big plays in the secondary. He doesn't look at it that way.

"I think every game you go into, you play as a team. However many points they score, we've got to score one more point. In some games, the defense will light them up and they score 7. Other games it might be 42.

"You go out there and play as a team. The offense, defense and special teams has got each other's back. Whatever it takes, that's how you win."

Illini fans will get their first taste of Petrino's play-calling tendencies Saturday. One thing he is likely to do that is a departure from the past is how he reacts to playing with a lead. He believes in attacking at all times. He wants to play to win, not play to keep from losing.

Petrino may not have much experience at calling plays, but he has the pedigree. Now all he has to do is get his players to perform on the field like they've done in practice.

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