by Chris Bahn
Posted 5/22/2012 04:30 pm
Updated 7 months ago
Rarely does anything good come from a quarterback making an incorrect read. It’s often a turnover or a wasted play waiting to happen.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson learned this spring there are occasions when a poor assessment actually leads to something promising. There are times where getting it wrong is the best possible outcome.
Wilson is reminded of that lesson when discussing his relationship with offensive coordinator Paul Petrino. When Petrino was hired in December, Wilson was skeptical.
It was difficult for Wilson to imagine a smooth transition. How wrong he's turned out to be. And how happy the Heisman hopeful is to have been wrong.
“Originally I wondered about it, I didn’t know how it would be, but we work really well together,” Wilson said. “There’s a communication level, a comfort level that is there. It’s hard to describe.”
Perhaps Wilson can’t do the relationship justice with words. His spring practice performance provides as good an explanation as any of how well he and Petrino fit.
It’s well documented the sort of spring Wilson had. He threw no interceptions in scrimmages and capped April by completing 31 of 41 passes for 467 yards with two touchdowns in the Red-White game.
Much of the credit, Wilson said, goes to his new offensive coordinator and position coach. He and Petrino have known of each other since December 2007, but had just a surface familiarity until last December.
It was prior to the Cotton Bowl that Petrino rejoined the Arkansas staff after two years at Illinois. He was hired as offensive coordinator, a role he’d served before, but instead of wide receivers Petrino’s assignment was quarterbacks.
Memories of Petrino’s first tour of duty in Fayetteville included him running downfield after receivers, screaming “encouragements” into their ears. Wilson expected more of the same from Petrino and wondered how that would mesh with his own more laid-back personality.
Then the two began to bond over a shared interest in breaking down video. Wilson was often in the film room trying to improve and Petrino was there trying to reintroduce himself to the team and fill up any spare time he had while waiting for his wife and kids to make the move from Illinois.
“There was a lot of time when my family wasn’t here, so we spent a lot of time together,” Petrino said. “We found out we communicate real well with each other. We just have a, I’m not sure how you word it, but we definitely have a good working relationship.
“It goes beyond football. We care about each other.”
Feelings in football? They are not that rare with Petrino, apparently.
Former Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins was quick to credit Petrino for helping his development into a first-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers. Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White was heavily influenced by Petrino’s 10 or so months as an NFL assistant.
Jenkins and White, like Wilson, point beyond Petrino’s knowledge of football when describing how he helped their growth as players. Having a personal relationship with the coach was a critical component of that development they said.
Which is an area where Paul and his brother, former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, seem vastly different. Paul is much more likely to shoot a player a text totally unrelated to football.
Does he know how to call plays as well? Time will tell, but there seems to be plenty of evidence to suggest Paul Petrino gets the game beyond the Xs and Os.
“Your players have to trust you have their best interest in mind,” Petrino said. “I think sometimes it’s as easy as just texting and asking how they are doing. You text them stuff away from football sometimes. You build a relationship, show you’re going to do everything in your power to make them the best they can be. … you build their confidence.”
Petrino worked quickly to develop that rapport with Wilson. Noticing that the junior quarterback struggled with blitz pickups during the regular season, Petrino spent extra time before the Cotton Bowl developing a book for Wilson to study that was devoted totally to reading Kansas State’s defense before the snap.
Wilson completed 64.5 percent of his passes against Kansas State for 216 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t his most impressive outing of the year, but Wilson felt his comfort level with the offense and Petrino grow, something that carried over into the film room and spring practices.
Those nearly flawless scrimmage performances by Wilson have him anxious for the fall. He’s ready to see further payout from a relationship that’s already paying dividends.
This is one read Wilson doesn’t mind blowing in the least.
“He’s a guy I connect well with,” Wilson said. “We’ve got a great chemistry and I’m pumped. Ultimately, I think that’s what football and team sports are about: having that chemistry. I feel like we’ve got that here.”