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Louisville Writer Breaks Down The Power Of Petrino; We Tell You Why He’ll Be Back In The Big Leagues Next Season

This spring, fired by Arkansas after his affair with an employee became tabloid fodder, it appeared that Bobby Petrino would be radioactive for a while.  At least at the major college level.

Now, just a few months later, his name is already being connected to several BCS-level jobs that might come open by year’s end.

What changed?  Uh, have you seen Arkansas this season?  The worse the Hogs look, the higher Petrino’s stock rises.  Nevermind the fact that if it weren’t for Petrino’s off-field issues the Razorbacks wouldn’t be just this side of Hell right now.

Longtime Louisville writer Eric Crawford has penned an excellent piece — actually, he’s keyboarded a piece, I’d reckon — breaking down just what happens when Petrino exits a place and another coach enters.  Remember, before dumping the Atlanta Falcons for Arkansas and imploding in Fayetteville, Petrino had coached, won and departed from the University of Louisville.

According to Crawford, his attention to detail and his cold, business-like demeanor were sorely missed at U of L once he left for the NFL:


“Under Petrino, something like a cell phone ringing in the offensive meeting room was a major infraction. If Paul Petrino heard a phone ring in one of his meetings, there was no telling what might happen. Forget confiscation, the phone would be lucky to survive, and the player might feel lucky to survive. In the first offensive meeting under Charlie Stubbs, (Steve) Kragthorpe’s new offensive coordinator, a phone rang, and players sat up in their seats, cringing almost reflexively. Stubbs stopped speaking, the phone rang once more before it could be silenced, there was an expectant moment of quiet, then he continued without acknowledging it.

It was a new day.

Even before that, the change was evident. The first time one position group showed up for some ‘voluntary’ skeleton drills such as all teams run during the summer, they started to run the drills outlined on a sheet for them by the new coaches. About 15-20 minutes in, one player said to the other, ‘That’s it.’ The others were confused. These were 45-minute or 1-hour drills under the predecessors. They’d gotten to the end of the list in a fraction of that time. They ran through the drills three more times, then stopped.

Wide receivers, accustomed to a precision attack in which coaches would literally measure out the steps that each player would run before cutting or making a move in his route, now were told, instead of how many steps, to go out seven yards and curl, or whatever the route was. The result was routes that wound up growing less precise.

Now it’s important to understand, there was nothing negligent or substandard on the part of the new staff. The way they were doing it was the way staffs were doing it throughout much of college football. But Petrino has been successful not just because he sweats the small stuff, but because he obsesses over it.

He had assistants staying in the U of L football complex until 11 p.m. over the summer going over game film of teams they wouldn’t play for three months.

Players derived a great deal of confidence from the offensive game plan. During coaches’ meetings, assistants would each propose their ‘scoring plays’ of the week, those they determined would be most likely to break for big gains or scores. When an agreement was reached, they’d tell the team in running through the script of the first 15 or 20 plays, ‘This is the touchdown play.’

The staff was right so many times that players began to believe them when they told them a particular play was going to score. And the offense was so effective that players derived confidence from that. Eric Wood, a center at the time, told me for a story I did for the newspaper, ‘We just can’t wait to see what they have planned every week. You really look forward to seeing the game plan to see what they’ve found to attack.’

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