FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Incoming University of Arkansas football head coach Bobby Petrino met with local media Tuesday for the first time since being hired Dec. 11 to lead the Razorback program. The following is a partial transcript of the press conference.
“I just want to reflect a little bit on the week. There’s been a lot of excitement, a lot of hard work and I’ve been very energized. The number-one priority was to get out into the state recruiting when I found out last Wednesday morning the short period we had to contact until it went dead. We made a list and we got out and I believe we saw everybody in the state of Arkansas that committed to us. I was very impressed with the reception and very impressed with the passion for football throughout the state. I’m very excited about what the high school coaches are doing with so many of them throwing the football and so many passing tournaments. The development of receivers and quarterbacks when the high school coaches are doing that is something that I think will really help us here in the future.”
On coaching staff updates
“It’s just a unique situation we have here with one staff coaching the bowl game and with the timetable of when I can actually bring my staff in. Right now, I’ve brought Paul (Petrino), my brother, in as the offensive coordinator, so we can get another guy recruiting. I’ve hired Tim Horton which I’m real excited about his relationship throughout the state and being a graduate of Arkansas I think is a major benefit for me. The rest of the staff, I can’t say much about. I feel like I’m in good shape. I feel like the situation is in good hands, but with the timetable it actually won’t happen until around Jan. 3.
“(Tim and I) got together one night here and talked about his past and future and then got busy recruiting. It’s just the right thing to do. It’s the right fit. He’s a guy that should be coaching and working here at the university and he’s going to be a major asset to our football program. We haven’t exactly defined (his role) just yet, but he’s certainly going to be a major part of our staff.”
On having coaches on staff with Arkansas ties
“I think it is important to have guys that understand the university, understand the state and how everything works. I think the thing I was so impressed with Tim was with the short period of time he’s been coaching here and the relationships he has with the high school coaches in the state, it’s as if he’s been here for 20 years. So that was real impressive to me.”
On his role before/during the Cotton Bowl
“I’m going to go to the bowl game and watch from afar. It’s been, as I’ve called it, a unique situation. You could put difficult in there, too. That’s for everybody. I believe the staff is coaching them and working them as hard as they can and doing a nice job of preparation before the game. I think the players have handled the situation with a tremendous amount of class. All of my efforts will be toward recruiting and evaluating even though we have a number of guys who are committed. You will find that with the scholarships we have left it’s very important that we get the right guys to fill those slots, so that’s really where I’ll be spending most of my energy.”
On dealing with outside criticism
“I’m not going to say anything in my defense. I’m very excited about where I am. I’m very excited about moving forward. I think we put all that behind me. I think we put all that has happened with the university before and we move forward with the state of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas.
“We’re going to go forward. We’re not going to talk anymore about the Atlanta Falcons. We’re talking about the University of Arkansas and the Razorbacks, what our future is here, what we have to do recruiting wise and we have a lot to do. We have to get a staff hired and in place by Jan. 3. We have a short period of time before the signing day. We need to make sure we’re academically ready and set for the next semester and get ready for spring football. We have a whole bunch on our plate to be concerned about here and only here.”
On recruiting needs
“I think it’s a little early to (determine what we need) with just one look at practice. We have gone back and watched some of the video from last year. Certainly, I like a lot of what I see of guys who are returning. I can see the offensive line being a big strength for us. Depending on what happens and if we need to replace two running backs or not, that could be an area of concern.”
On the spring game
“I’m going to sit down and really evaluate. What I’ve done in the past is put the ones together as a team and the twos together as a team and played it like a guy, particularly in the first half and then run the clock in the second half. We’ll see if that’s the right thing to do. Sometimes you have to make that decision in the middle of spring ball, where we are health wise and where we are team wise. Sometimes you just need to use that game as another practice and a chance to get better, but if we can run it like a game, that’s really what I’d like to do.”
On quarterback needs
“I think in a perfect world, you’d have a quarterback per class with one class set to come in. We’re probably going to bring in two this year. That’s what it looks like right now and I feel like that’s what we need to do, but (we’d like to) get it to where we’re recruiting one quarterback every year. One thing that happens at quarterback and everyone is aware of, is that we try to recruit the best quarterback every year and get him on campus. It is a position where a young man transfers. They all want to come in and play. They all want to play early. They believe in themselves. Then for some reasons, there’s a situation where they do transfer so they can get playing time. I understand that. That is really one of the reasons we want to get one every year.”
On recruiting pipeline states
“We need to make a real emphasis, of course, in the state which we’re doing. I’d like to get very much involved in the state of Texas and get back in there. At Louisville, we recruited hard in Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Hopefully some of our ties in those states will pay off.
“I think (playing in Texas) is real valuable. Anytime you can go home and play in front of your relatives it helps a lot with the proximity for us. Then there’s also the thought you should recruit wherever your conference plays. I do think that’s real important with the SEC because there are so many young athletes out there that grow up dreaming about playing in the Southeastern Conference. I think that’s important for us to make sure we’re in those area.”
On the University of Arkansas academic facilities
“Actually, I just had a meeting up there this morning. The set up is great. We have all the facilities we need to make sure our young men can come in and graduate. I think they’re going to get the best tutors possible and the best support. They’re going to get the support from me to make sure they’re in class and doing things right and that the belief that they are student-athletes and it is important to graduate.”
On the coaching match-ups in the SEC
“I’m excited about our team playing their team, not so much about me going against their head coach because that’s not really what it’s all about. It’s about the players playing against their players. It is a great conference with great coaches in it, guys I’ve competed against before and that is exciting, no question, but the bottom line is we need to get our team prepared to go and play their team.”
On the Cotton Bowl
“I think this game does two things. Number one, we want out seniors to go out right and make sure they put their best effort and best foot forward and finish what they started this season. Number two, for the underclassmen, it really starts the 2008 season. You want to win the game and make sure you put on a good performance because it will have something to do with where we’re ranked when we start next season.”
On offensive coordinator Paul Petrino
“Paul is very energetic, a coach that goes out on the field and coaches extremely hard every day and does a great job of taking over the room when I’m not in there making sure everything is on track and getting the game plan prepared. He has a tremendous amount to do with what we do offensively, what are style is and what our game plan is. The best thing is when I’m not there and I’ve stepped out of the room, he’s an extension of my beliefs and what I believe in.”