|Petrino, Arkansas open against W. Illinois|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 29 August 2008 13:51|
Since then, he's learned a lot more about his new home.
``I think when you go out on the road and recruiting and throughout our Razorback functions that we've had, just to get to understand how much pride there is in the University of Arkansas and in Razorback football throughout the entire state, is really something special,'' Petrino said this week.
``I'm not sure there's another place like it.''
Petrino will coach his first game at Arkansas on Saturday night in Fayetteville against Western Illinois. For Petrino and the Razorbacks, this will be a fresh start.
Arkansas is moving on after the last few tumultuous years of Houston Nutt's tenure. Meanwhile, Petrino is returning to college football after bailing out on the Atlanta Falcons in the middle of their nightmarish 2007 season. Petrino went 41-9 in four seasons as Louisville's coach.
Petrino was vilified for leaving the NFL so abruptly, but now the focus returns to his coaching. He'll have his work cut out for him with an Arkansas team that lost star running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones to the pros.
Nutt relied on a powerful running game during his 10 seasons at Arkansas, but toward the end, many fans grew impatient with the coach. The Razorbacks lacked offensive balance, and off-field controversy involving Nutt and quarterback Mitch Mustain made things worse.
Mustain transferred to Southern California. Nutt resigned late last season and was immediately hired by Ole Miss.
Petrino was expected to overhaul Arkansas' offense. Senior Casey Dick is back at quarterback after starting 22 games the past three years. Center Jonathan Luigs - last year's Rimington Award winner - will anchor the offensive line. The running backs and receivers are inexperienced.
``I would say exciting, aggressive, tough. It's not laid-back at all,'' said sophomore receiver D.J. Williams, describing the new offense. ``It will be fun to watch how aggressive this offense is.''
Junior Michael Smith will try to fill McFadden's shoes in the backfield. Smith averaged 6.8 yards per carry in limited duty the past two seasons.
Dick, who threw for 1,695 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, is expected to play a bigger role in Petrino's offense with McFadden and Jones gone.
``He's doing a nice job for us. He does understand what we want from the position,'' Petrino said. ``He's working hard at operating that. A lot of times now he knows before he's corrected from the coaches.''
Western Illinois is a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, college football's second tier. The Leathernecks return 18 starters from 2007. Last year, Western Illinois lost 21-0 to an Illinois team that ended up in the Rose Bowl.
``We have a great group of veteran players and returning starters and they know what is expected of them,'' Western Illinois coach Mark Hendrickson said. ``We have high expectations for this fall.''
Hendrickson is filling in as Leathernecks coach while Don Patterson receives treatment for tonsillar cancer.
``We've lost a good man for a while,'' Hendrickson said. ``That definitely made things a little more hectic around here.''