When Bobby Petrino was introduced as the new Head Hog in December, there was one thing on the minds of Razorback fans: Passes and more passes.
Don't expect Arkansas to look like Texas Tech or Hawaii. The Petrino offense is not about passing. It is not about rushing.
It is about efficiency and a balanced attack that pressures the defense on every inch of the field. Just thinking about that is refreshing.
In order to get a perspective on what the Arkansas offensive attack will look like in 2008, take a look at some statistics from Louisville in Petrino's first year in 2003 and the previous year.
In 2002, Louisville scored 359 points for an average of 29.9 points per game. In 2003, the Louisville offense amassed 450 points for an average of 34.6 per game. That's roughly five points per game.
If Arkansas had scored an extra five points in each game in 2007, it would have been a 10-3 team, beating Alabama and Auburn.
In 2002, Louisville had 1,331 yards rushing. In 2003, the total ballooned to 2,966. If everyone associates passing with Bobby Petrino, that stat alone is a testament to his balanced approach.
In 2002, the Cardinals had 26 fumbles and lost 18. A year later the numbers were 13 and eight respectively.
In 2002, Louisville racked up 124 penalties. In 2003, the number fell to 98.
In 2002, Louisville gave up 33 sacks for a loss of 206 yards. In 2003, 26 sacks for a loss of 148 yards.
More numbers to back up Petrino's efficiency and intense attention to detail.
Now to the quarterbacks.
Dave Ragone led the Cardinal attack in 2002, going 217-396 with 2,687 yards, 23 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, a 54.8 completion percentage, and 223.9 yards per game.
Petrino's first year at Louisville saw Stefan Lefors taking over. In his first year in the Petrino offense he was 219-357 with 3,145 yards, 17 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, a 61.3 completion percentage, and 241.9 yards per game.
The touchdown numbers were down, but there were more yards on fewer attempts while completing roughly six percent more passes. I believe that will suffice for efficient.
In 2007, Casey Dick completed 150 of 262 passes for 1,695 yards with 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 130.4 yards per game, and a completion percentage of 57.3.
If the spring was any indication of how Dick will perform in the fall, you can expect him to go nuclear statistically in the much more QB-friendly offense. Casey Dick was 33-49 in the spring game for 404 yards.
If he only passes for half of that total in each game this fall, which is far more realistic, he would finish with 2,400 yards—not a bad year, especially by Arkansas passing standards.
The Louisville running game in 2003 could be very similar to the 2008 Arkansas version.
In 2003, the leading rushers were Lionel Gates with 817 yards on 141 attempts with 11 touchdowns, Eric Shelton with 790 yards on 166 attempts with 10 touchdowns, and freshman and soon to be superstar Michael Bush with 503 yards on 81 attempts with six touchdowns. Those numbers do not exactly jump out at you, but they are very respectable.
Exit McFadden, Jones, and Hillis. Enter Smith, Barnett, Curtis, Johnson, and possibly Gregory. There is no reason to believe this stable of backs cannot produce similar numbers. Michael Smith has proven he can handle his share of the carries. If Barnett can get a handle on his fumbling woes and one of the freshmen steps up, these backs will be capable of keeping defenses honest.
With three solid tight ends in place, the Arkansas receiving corps only needs four to five guys who can catch the ball. The Petrino attack doesn't need Randy Moss or Terrell Owens to make it tick.
London Crawford has shown the ability to make plays, but his hands were questionable in the spring. Carlton Sanders and Marques Wade made huge strides. Lucas Miller and the injured Crosby Tuck were solid contributors last season. Reggie Fish might even surprise.
With heralded freshmen Joe Adams and Jarius Wright entering the fold, along with a bevy of others, Arkansas will be able to find a few guys who can make a play or two this fall.
The presence of Bobby Petrino will bring improvements. Expect fewer turnovers and penalties and many hands touching the ball.
The win/loss total for the upcoming season may not reflect success, but you can guarantee the Arkansas offense will be much improved. Much more efficient. Much more fun.