Hate him or love him–and at this point Homerism can’t imagine there are many of the latter outside of Arkansas right now–you can’t deny that Bobby Petrino is an outstanding offensive tactician.
In his most recent stops on the collegiate level, Petrino’s teams have shown noticeable progress right off the bat. When he took over as offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2002, the Tigers saw their points per game rise to 29.8 from 21.2 in 2001. Total yards per game climbed from 343.6 to 387.5. In his first season as Louisville head coach in 2003, the Cardinals’ points per game increased from 28.8 in the previous season to 34.6, while total yards per game went from 333.8 to 488.9.
In his first year in Fayetteville, Petrino inherited a team in transition. Now, the Razorbacks appear ready to make the leap witnessed under Petrino at Auburn and Louisville. After a year spent learning a complicated new system, eight starters return for the Hogs on offense. Additionally, hyped Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett will be taking over under center. Mallett, the top quarterback in his recruiting class, has a rocket arm and should be a major upgrade from the Dick brothers, who ran the show in ’08.
Mallett’s potential is already well-established. However, among the returnees are two jitterbugs at wide receiver and running back who should benefit significantly from the coming offensive explosion.
Sophomore WR Joe Adams made an immediate impact as a freshman, finishing the year third on the team in receptions with 31 for an average of 12.2 yards per catch. The 177-pound Little Rock native should be a major threat for the Hogs this year out of the slot. Petrino will find a variety of ways–receiving or running the ball–to take advantage of Adams’ speed and shiftiness.
Tiny senior tailback Michael Smith was surprisingly productive last year, rushing for a total of 1,072 yards and eight touchdowns. And that was in just 10 games. Despite Petrino’s penchant for big backs, the 5’7″ Smith still looks like the lead dog for 2009. The only issue: a torn hamstring that sidelined Smith late in ’08. Petrino has pronounced his top runner 100 percent heading into the fall, though.