Arkansas Head Coach Bobby Petrino“It was a different off weekend because we were preparing for the Texas game and found out late Wednesday night that it was postponed. We tried to switch gears and start preparing for Alabama and the coaches did a good job of that. We got a practice in on Thursday and then Friday we had good meetings and gave the players Friday night and Saturday off. We came back yesterday and had good meetings and a good practice under the lights which is always a different atmosphere for the players and they always come out with a little more energy. It was a good practice. We got a lot done and hopefully it helps us get ready for this game. We know it’s going to be a very tough challenge. We watched Alabama on video and they’re playing very well. They have a very physical front, running the ball well and throwing the ball deep. That certainly causes some concerns for our defense.”
“Offensively, we’ve got to block a very experienced and big physical defensive front. Basically, except for one new guy, it’s the same guys from last year’s videos. Their secondary is playing well also. We certainly have enough challengers. We’ve got to worry about ourselves making sure we get better each day, working hard in practice, and starting to understand what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are, and continue to improve every day in practice. That’s our main concern right now, our improvement each day, and understanding what our schemes are, and understanding what the other team is trying to do.”
“It’s a big game for us. Conference opener, at home, so we have to do a great job of winning our home games. We’re playing a team that’s ranked in the top ten. They had a big win in their opener, a very dominating win against Clemson, and they are executing and playing well. Certainly there’s enough at stake, no question about that, and we have to do a great job in our preparation.”
About coaching against Nick Saban“I coached against (Alabama head coach Nick Saban) when I was the offensive coordinator at Auburn, and he was the head coach at LSU. They are very well coached. They certainly have very good schemes and players playing with very good technique. It’s a good challenge for us.”
About Alabama“They have some newcomers that are playing real well. (Terrence Cody is) a big nose guard inside, very physical, takes up a lot of room, I’ve been very impressed with his athletic ability and ability to shed blocks and make plays, he’s a big load in there. Both of their safeties we have on video from a year ago. They’re playing a lot more aggressive coming down making a lot of tackles. They basically play four corners and all of them come up and press and try to play real physical. It’s a good challenge for us.”
The Alabama Offense“Offensively, I’m impressed with all of their running backs. They hit the hole hard they run physical and their really trying to push the front with their offensive lineman. A lot of teams we face are all zone blocking and they’re going to run a lot more power, and a lot more double teams. We have to do a good job against the double teams.
“(John Parker Wilson) is playing well. I’ve known him for a long time and been watching him for a long time. He’s got very good arm strength, a quick release and when he gets his feet set, he’s a very accurate passer. He looks like he’s very comfortable in what they’re asking him to do and he’s been performing well. That’s really the concern: being able to stop the run, and handle what they’re doing with him throwing the ball down the field. They have good speed out at receiver. They’ve got the big freshman wide receiver (Julio Jones) that’s tall and fast. Being able to defend both the run and the pass is really a concern for us.”
On the extra days of practice“They get more reps and we get extra practices in. It’s not the ideal bye week. The ideal (bye week) you’d have two-week preparation for your next game, go back and do some work from your camp in two a days, revisit some competition, one-on-one competition, but there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. We just made the adjustment; it does give us a little bit of an advantage that we get four or five extra days of preparation when were playing Saturday night.”
“I hope it helps a lot. We’ve spent a lot of time going back through more video, being able to go back and watch some of our own cut ups. I think that’s one thing that really helps you is being able to watch some of our own cut ups from the first two games, and being able to study ourselves as well as get ready for the Alabama game.”
On what Arkansas needs to do better“I don’t think there’s ever just one thing that makes a difference in the game. We need to show improvement in the kicking game, which certainly takes into more aspects than just one. In our coverage, one of our biggest concerns is their punt returner and kickoff returner (Javier Arenas). He’s already taken it to the house once. One of them was on a safe punt where they basically weren’t even setting up a return and he made everyone miss and went for a touchdown. We’ve got to punt the ball and we’ve got to cover real well. We’ve got a lot of areas where we need to show improvement, but certainly the kicking game is one of them that really stand out. If we’re going to have an opportunity to win, then we’ve got to play well in the kicking game. We’ve got to kick the ball through the uprights, we’ve got to punt it where we’re supposed to and we need to cover. We need to get something out of our return game. I think that’s something that’s really hurt our field position: the lack of turnovers and then not getting anything out of the return game. We’ve got to get some turnovers coming our way, get some short fields, score on defense, score on special teams; you know it’s going to take all of these things to win this game.”
Special Teams“We’re still practicing. We’re working all week long. (Alex Tejada) has come back and been kicking the ball well, kicked it well last night, kicked it well on Thursday, both of them have been working at it, so we’re still practicing. Right now, if we were going today, he would come out there. He’s number one on the depth, but you go to work every day and evaluate all of our positions every day.”
On being a first-year head coach at Arkansas“Change is hard on everybody, particularly seniors. They’ve been accustomed to the way you do things for three and four years, some of them are even in their fifth year. Now they have to make a change, and get used to practicing different, different emphasis, different meetings. They have to work it and buy into it. That’s one obstacle you have to overcome. The second thing is this is our first year in our offenses scheme, our defenses scheme, and our special teams. It takes a little while to get used to it. It takes a while to experience the different looks and the different things that are going to happen. I think that’s what you see when you watch Alabama particularly on defense right now. You see their players are more experienced this year. They’re seeing looks and they’re reacting quicker, and they’re playing better simply because they’ve been executing those schemes, plays, and defensive calls in their second year now as appose to the first time they’ve ever done it.”
Quarterback Casey DickExperience in the SEC“Anytime you’re at home playing the first game of the SEC or anytime you’ re playing your first time in the SEC it’s a big game, it’s the game of the year. Its fun, the fans are excited, the teams are excited, they get to play in their conference, overall everyone is excited, can’t wait. It will be a tough, hard fought game by both teams. We just have to come out and be prepared and take care of our business.”
Receivers“Those guys have done a nice job all year long, making plays and catching the ball. They just have to continue the hard work and keep getting better.”
Being comfortable in the offense“I am comfortable we have in, I don’t know if it’s everything that he plans to install here in the future but with everything we have in now I am comfortable with it and it feels good to run the offense.
“It is a lot of fun playing in this offense with the guys that are surrounding you, whether it’s Michael Smith or the four or five wide outs that we’ve got or the offensive linemen we ask them to do anything it’s a fantastic offensive plan. There is a bunch of play makers that we can get the ball to, and just switch it up whenever we need to.”
Switching from Texas to Alabama“Anytime you get to a Thursday or after a Wednesday practice you feel like you are ready to go play. It’s tough to switch gears like we did and just drop everything and prepare for Alabama. Fortunately for us there are similarities in their defense that they run, but we will have to focus in on what the differences are, and try and figure those out and just gain any advantages that we can.
“Their base fronts, coverage’s and different things like that. They try to disguise it with different ways and move to it late but its things they did last year too. We just have to watch the film and gain any advantage that we can.”
Alabama game last year/ revenge factor“That was a hard fought game last year; obviously they had us down by a bunch early. We weren’t ready to play by any means, in the first half at all and came back the second half and had a lot of success. We will have to come out and put points up on the board in the first half and we may have to score points in the second half and I think we may be alright, just keep putting points up and taking what they give us.
“Alabama is a good a physical, fast team. They obviously know what they are doing. They’ve got a big offensive line, big offensive front. It will be a physical game, it’s just whoever can execute the most and make the biggest plays.”
Safety Matt HarrisComing off the off weekend and what the defense has been working on“We had a mind set that we would be going into Texas for the past week since last Sunday and we’ve been ready to play big time football for awhile now. After last Thursday when we found out we weren’t playing Texas we had a little jump start on Alabama, so we have been looking forward to this game for a while now. We are ready to go.”
Alabama offense“Their passing offense, they’ve got [John Parker] Wilson back there [at quarterback] he’s been back there for awhile now. He’s experienced; they’ve got a big offensive line that might be the strength of their offense. They give time back there to throw the ball, but we know going into the game that Alabama likes to run the ball. They do like to take deep shots and keep us on our toes. We are going to have to be ready for a full force of big attacks Saturday.”
Comparing ULM to Alabama“ULM tested us a little more than Western Illinois did, so that was a good thing for us going into this Saturday. It showed us a lot; we got a lot of the film. We are going to see Alabama has a few similarities to ULM, kind of run the same personnel, but they are a more physical team than Louisiana-Monroe and we are going to have to go in there with the mindset of not so much that they are Alabama, we have to take care of our responsibility no matter if it’s a Monroe or an Alabama team.”
New players coming back, changing the defense“It gives us a little more personality, some more characteristics out there when you see Jerell Norton in at cornerback, he has had big time game time experience he got a pick last year at Alabama. We are getting some guys back; it gives a little more confidence and more depth going into this Alabama game, which takes the pressure of some other guy’s shoulders. We are always going to play hard but heaven forbid we have a few guys back there that we didn’t have a few weeks ago.”
Last year and this year vs. Alabama“Last year was a typical SEC matchup and it was a heck of a fight. Every time Arkansas goes up against Alabama in an SEC matchup it’s going to be a fight, and this year the fight is going to be physical, big guys banging around and you can’t go in there half stepping, you’ve got to go full force into Alabama. They are a big strong team and this is the SEC, its going to be week in and week out. Last year it was loud, fast and physical.
“This is the toughest conference in the nation. You can be sitting on top at 1-0 after beating a team like Alabama that not only gives you a step up in the rankings but [also] the confidence level. When you beat a good team like Alabama who’s playing good football right now, it’s going to help us going into the Texas week and for our future and let us find a lot out about ourselves.”
Confidence“We’re 2-0 and we’ve got some confidence going into this game. We could be 0-2, […] we’ve gained a lot of confidence over the past two weeks and more importantly we’ve found out a lot about our team and how we perform under certain situations. We’ve had two pressure games where we’ve had to run two in an offense and had to run pass defense to win the game and we’ve come out victorious the past two weeks so these two early tests have helped us out a lot going into a big-time game like Alabama.”
Tough four game stretch“We’re not really too worried about the four games. I’m excited; playing a team like Alabama right now and then we’re going into Texas, my home state, Florida, Auburn, it’s the SEC. You have to be able to look forward to it and say bring it on. It’s exciting and if we have this four game stretch and we’re 4-0 out of this stretch that’s the exciting part of it because we can go all the way. We’re going to take it one game at a time though. 100 per cent of our focus is on Alabama, but the four game stretch, we knew we had it coming for the past eight months so we’re not worried or scared about anything.”