by Chris Bahn
Posted 12/13/2011 02:02 pm
Updated 3 years ago
Shortly after arriving in Fayetteville on Sunday, new Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes began familiarizing himself with the unit he would be taking over. Haynes watched film until about 1 a.m. with a graduate assistant, taking notes on plays and personnel.
Haynes has plenty of catching up to do before the No. 6 Razorbacks face No. 9 Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl. He’ll be involved in preparation for the bowl and while he might not be calling plays on short notice, Haynes is doing all he can to learn what he’s working with at Arkansas (10-2).
That willingness to jump right into the task at hand is a pretty telling glimpse of what attracted Bobby Petrino to Haynes, a six-year assistant at Ohio State. Petrino calls it “grinding.” You often hear Petrino use that phrase in relation to employees and players. Petrino likes people who work hard and do whatever needed to get the job done.
Haynes, when asked about Petrino’s preference for grinders, described himself as fitting the bill.
“To me it’s just a guy that works all day, and whenever he has the job done, it’s done,” Haynes said. “I am that.”
Petrino got a glimpse of Haynes’ ability to grind a decade ago. Haynes was the defensive quality-control assistant for the Jacksonville Jaguars when Petrino was the Jags' offensive coordinator.
Haynes shared a workspace with offensive quality-control assistant Garrick McGee. Petrino spent a lot of time with those two, talking football and whatever else three guys obsessed with football might talk about when not talking about, well, football.
“I was really, really impressed with him,” Petrino said of their Jacksonville experience.
Former Arkansas assistant John L. Smith worked with Haynes at Louisville. He backed up Petrino’s first impression of Haynes with a good recommendation.
There is nobody working for Petrino that is unwilling to put in long hours. And it seems – as with many coaches — Petrino prefers working with assistants he or people he trusts have crossed paths with in the past.
That’s why some of the names linked to the job were head-scratchers. None had any sort of tie to Petrino.
Haynes isn’t a Carroll College guy (like four other assistants on staff), but he had plenty of history with people Petrino trusts. That factor also no doubt weighed heavily into his favor as Petrino reviewed candidates for the position.
But this wasn’t a hire based solely on one year together in Jacksonville and a few nice plugs from mutual friends. Petrino sold Haynes as a guy who will be valuable to the program for other reasons as well.
Petrino liked what he knew of Haynes’ ability to relate and communicate with players. Communication seemed to be a missing ingredient the last four years, and former defensive coordinator Willy Robinson admitted as much on multiple occasions.
Haynes, who recruited Florida and Georgia for the Buckeyes, came across in his introductory press conference as a guy who can communicate his thoughts clearly. That’s a must when dealing with college players, who have a lot on their minds outside of learning and executing schemes.
Sometime during their four-hour conversation in Columbus, Ohio, Haynes must have heard Petrino express his thoughts on defensive simplicity, because that was a theme Haynes hit hard during Monday’s press conference. It isn’t what he knows, but what the players know, Haynes said.
Haynes has a track record for developing defensive backs and getting them into the NFL. He had eight drafted while at Ohio State, which is worth noting among all the facts and figures the UA released as part of its bio on the newest hire.
Petrino has consistently won by developing lesser regarded talent. He did it at Louisville and seems to be doing it at Arkansas as well. Haynes fits the profile as a guy who does that.
If there’s one area where Haynes’ history is a bit of mystery and worthy of some skepticism it’s in regard to calling plays. He said he’s called third-down plays throughout his time with the Buckeyes and seems a full-time defensive coordinator position as being a natural step up in his career.
Does Haynes have the same acumen (and will the head coach provide the same leeway) as feared and revered defensive coordinators currently in the SEC? Time will tell.
Whatever pressure is associated with helping the Razorbacks eclipse the 10-win plateau of the last two regular seasons should tell us something else about Haynes: He’s not afraid of a challenge.
“We are not sitting there trying to be average,” Haynes said. “Our goal is to be the best defense in the country. That’s what we’re going to work on. And at the end of the year you can only go by the wins and losses, you can go by the defensive stats. We definitely want to be in the Top 5 in every category on defense.”
Perhaps Haynes and Petrino will realize their vision for the defense. There’s just a lot of grinding to be done before it’s a reality.