Bahn: Razorbacks Rally Around Current Staff, Trying To Process Petrino Firing

by Chris Bahn  on Saturday, Apr. 14, 2012 10:14 am  

What Arkansas players thought they knew about Coach Bobby Petrino has changed dramatically over the last week. (Photo by Mark Wagner)

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Knile Davis is still trying to wrap his head around the past week.

Bobby Petrino is no longer the Arkansas football coach. Very private details of Petrino’s life have been made public and a series of missteps and lies led to the coach being terminated.

Davis, like other Razorbacks, has had to shut off his phone, disappear from social media and avoid watching TV this week. Still, new of Petrino’s firing following an extramarital affair with female football staff member Jessica Dorrell has been unavoidable.

“Some days I wake up and I’m like, ‘Is this really happening?’ ” Davis said. “Sometimes it’s just mind-boggling. Just got to keep going.”

Davis, quarterback Tyler Wilson, linebacker Tenarius Wright and defensive tackle Alfred Davis met with media following a Friday scrimmage and all shared the same sense of shock at what had transpired in the last week. All welcomed Friday’s scrimmage as a chance to get away from it all, though looking around Razorback Stadium and not seeing or hearing Petrino probably wasn’t the best way to avoid the reality of his dismissal.

Arkansas entered the spring as one of the Top 10 teams in the country. A victory in the Cotton Bowl secured the Razorbacks’ spot in the Top 5 to end last season and the shuffling of the defensive staff and addition of key recruits was supposed to keep them in the SEC and BCS title conversations.

What happened with Petrino has kept the talk less on football. Players aren’t sure what to think right now and have been conflicted as more news about their coach has come out since his April 1 motorcycle accident with Dorrell.

“Some people are heartbroken and you can see it in their eyes and are confused about how exactly they are suppose to feel,” Wright said. “We know what we have in our hands and we know that we have the power to move forward or mope over something we have no power or control over.”

While the players have little sway over what direction Jeff Long goes in finding a replacement, several teams leaders have met with the athletic director. Razorbacks seem to vary on who they would like to see take over the program. Offensive players tend to lean toward coaches on that side of the ball, while defensive players are more familiar with their coaches.

However, there does seem to be a consensus among the Razorbacks that Long hire from within for the 2012 season. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, defensive coordinator Paul Haynes and assistant head coach Taver Johnson are candidates. Running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Tim Horton, a former Razorback player, also seems to be drawing endorsements from players and others outside the program.

Keeping the staff intact is something the players seem to prefer.

Wilson said getting through the fall while trying to learn new offensive and defensive systems would be too much. Plus, the players have faith in the staff currently in place.



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