FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -Now is as good a time as any for Arkansas to reshape its offense.
The team Bobby Petrino will inherit next season could look significantly different from the group that's won 18 games over the last two years.
``We're losing some key players,'' junior center Jonathan Luigs said Wednesday, a day after Petrino left the Atlanta Falcons to became the Razorbacks' coach. ``We've got a lot of good seniors here, and maybe some underclassmen that may come out, so there will be some new faces on the field out there next year, from the staff on down to the players. It's going to be different around here.''
straight years.
Felix Jones, a 1,000-yard rusher for the second consecutive season, might also forgo his senior year.
``We just have to wait until after the bowl game and see what happens,'' Jones said.
Petrino left the Falcons after only 13 games. Before going to Atlanta in January, he went 41-9 in four seasons at Louisville.
His hiring ended Arkansas' two-week search to replace Houston Nutt, who left the Razorbacks and took over at Mississippi. The difference between the two coaches is stark. Nutt built Arkansas into one of the Southeastern Conference's most powerful rushing teams, whereas Petrino has favored a more balanced offense.
``We wanted to find a proven coach that has an established track record of success on the field, a coach that could bring innovative ideas and philosophies to both sides of the football,'' incoming athletic director Jeff Long said.
Long, who takes over for Frank Broyles at the start of next year, handled the search for a new coach.
Arkansas also loses fullback Peyton Hillis and wide receiver Marcus Monk, two key seniors. No wonder Petrino was quick to stress recruiting at his introductory news conference.
``We definitely want to keep the best players from the state of Arkansas here at our university,'' Petrino said Tuesday night.
Nutt was criticized in recent years for losing some top in-state recruits. Most notably, prized quarterback Mitch Mustain played at Arkansas in 2006, went 8-0 as a starter, then transferred to Southern California. After that, Nutt faced fan unrest in his 10th and final season with the Razorbacks.
Petrino said Arkansas will be aggressive on offense, and although he's not known for his defensive expertise, his philosophy on that is sure to bring excitement to Razorbacks fans.
``I believe it's very important to stop the run, number one, and hit the quarterback, number two,'' Petrino said.
While Arkansas is euphoric, the mood is far different in Atlanta, where several Falcons players - including former Razorbacks defensive end Jamaal Anderson - ripped their former coach for his departure. Petrino's short stint in the NFL did little to dispel the notion that he's quick to switch jobs. From his very first year at Louisville, his name kept coming up for other positions.
Petrino's five-year contract with Arkansas pays him $2.85 million per year and includes a $2.85 million buyout if he leaves to take a college or pro job during the first four years. It also includes an agreement that Petrino not leave to accept a job with another SEC West school.
``He said he's coming in here to win a national championship, so I figure he's going to be here for a while,'' sophomore linebacker Freddie Fairchild said.
For now, players and fans aren't looking too far ahead. Arkansas was close to hiring Wake Forest's Jim Grobe last week, and when Grobe stayed with the Demon Deacons, some felt the Razorbacks needed to lower their sights. Not necessarily.
When the Razorbacks face No. 7 Missouri in the Cotton Bowl, they'll be led by interim coach Reggie Herring. Now they can plan a little further into the future.
``In the back of our heads every day we were wondering who it was going to be. We kept hearing rumors who the hot list might be, who they were talking to, what our future holds,'' Luigs said. ``It's just good to have it over with, and we can move on and prepare for Missouri.''

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