Arkansas Football: Which New Razorbacks Coordinator Is Under Most Pressure?
With Bobby Petrino out of the picture, the Arkansas Razorbacks are in a state of transition.
Despite his off-field issues, Petrino turned around the program, finishing with a 34-17 record over four seasons.
The offensive mastermind developed current New England Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallet into a two-time Second-Team All-SEC selection.
With projected first-round pick Tyler Wilson at the helm, the future of the Razorbacks rests not only on new head coach John L. Smith but also new coordinators Paul Petrino and Paul Haynes.
While Bobby’s brother is tasked with fostering Wilson’s development, Haynes takes over a defense that surrendered 22.75 points per game.
If Arkansas hopes to compete in the SEC, will it be Haynes or Petrino who faces the most pressure?
Let’s take a look at each coordinator’s case.
Paul Petrino (Offensive Coordinator)
Scoring points hasn’t been an issue for the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Bobby Petrino era.
In 2011, the Razorbacks paced the SEC with 36.8 points per game.
Much of that success can be credited to quarterback Tyler Wilson and his conference-leading 3,638 passing yards. The 6’3”, 220-pounder posted an incredible 24:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio while completing 63.2 percent of his passes.
However, Wilson’s job got much tougher after his top three receivers graduated. Replacing the 141 catches, 2,009 yards and 15 touchdowns that Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright produced in 2011 is easier said than done.
Though Wilson finished with an impressive stat line, he still has some growing to do. The projected first-rounder threw four of his six picks against SEC competition and managed only 392 yards against the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide.
Improving his play against the tough foes of the SEC is critical for Wilson, and Paul Petrino’s presence should help.
Petrino brings 21 years of coaching experience, including an impressive stint as Illinois’ offensive coordinator from 2010-2011.
Under Petrino’s guidance, the Illini broke school records for total points and points per game in 2010. He also helped develop Mikel LeShoure and A.J. Jenkins into future NFL draft picks.
In order to compete in the rugged SEC, Arkansas will have to put points on the board. As the receiver depth chart gets a makeover, it will be up to Petrino to uphold Arkansas’ reputation as an offensive powerhouse.
Paul Haynes (Defensive Coordinator)
Anyone who watched the BCS National Championship Game quickly realized the SEC prides itself on defense.
LSU and Alabama fielded the top two squads in the country, and it’s no coincidence they met in the title game.
Although Arkansas doesn’t boast the same talent as some of its SEC counterparts, they aren’t pushovers. But with the departures of Jake Bequette, Jerry Franklin and Tramain Thomas, there’s a lot of pressure on defensive coordinator Paul Haynes.
In losing Bequette, Franklin and Thomas, the Razorbacks will be missing their leading sack artist and top two tacklers. Bequette earned First-Team All-SEC honors after posting 10 sacks while Franklin made the second team after leading the team with 101 total tackles.
Luckily for Haynes, the defense still features some young playmakers.
Outside linebacker Alonzo Highsmith led the team with 12.5 tackles for loss, and safety Eric Bennett returns after posting 74 tackles and three interceptions.
Like Petrino, Haynes is no stranger to coaching, having spent seven seasons at Ohio State as the defensive backs coach. Some of Haynes’ more famous pupils include former first-rounders Malcolm Jenkins and Donte Whitner.
Haynes faces an uphill battle in replacing the leadership and production of Bequette, Franklin and Thomas, but the longtime coach certainly has the experience to get it done.
Paul Petrino has the benefit of inheriting a possible No. 1 overall pick while Paul Haynes inherits a defense devoid of impact players.
With Jake Bequette gone, Haynes has the unenviable task of replacing nearly a third of the team’s sack total.
Some of that production may come from JUCO signee Austin Flynn, but it’ll take more than an epic beard to get on the field.
As important as it is to find new leaders on defense, the man on the hot seat is definitely Petrino.
Besides developing a relationship with Tyler Wilson, the Razorbacks' offensive coordinator must find some new receivers for him to throw to.
Dealing with the pressure of his brother's firing shouldn't be overlooked, either.
When it comes down to it, Arkansas must continue to put points on the board if it hopes to compete in the SEC. It's Petrino's job to uphold the Razorbacks' reputation as an offensive powerhouse.