Petrino placed on leave after trust breaks
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino has been placed on paid administrative leave by athletic director Jeff Long, who said he made the decision to give himself time to review Petrino's recent actions.
Petrino issued a statement and apologized to his family and the university, admitting to having a "previous inappopriate relationship" after it was learned he had a female passenger with him when his motorcycle crashed Sunday.
According to a state police report released Thursday, Petrino, 51, was with former Arkansas volleyball player Jessica Dorrell, 25. Last month, Dorrell was named the student-athlete coordinator for the football team. Petrino said in his statement he was partially dishonest because of "concern about Jessica Dorrell's name being reveled."
Long said Thursday night at a press conference that he is assessing the situation and needs time to review the facts, and expressed disappointment in Petrino for withholding facts from him and others.
Taver Johnson, hired in January as linebackers coach and assistant head coach after spending the previous five seasons at Ohio State, will run the football program until further notice, Long said.
Petrino, who is married, did not mention a passenger at his news conference Tuesday to discuss the accident and said at the time he was the only person involved in the crash.
Dorrell, who apparently was unhurt in the crash, stopped a passing car to ask for assistance for Petrino, according to the report. The coach was taken to the hospital by state police and treated for four cracked ribs.
Long has not decided whether or not Dorrell would be suspended, he said.
Petrino told police that sun and wind caused him to veer off the road. He will not be cited.
Petrino's statement released April 5, in its entirety, read:
"The state police report today provides an accurate description of my accident, which includes details that had not publically come to light prior to the report being issued. I regret that I have not publically acknowledged a passenger on the vehicle. I have been in constant pain, medicated and the circumstances involving the wreck have come out in bits and pieces. That said I certainly had a concern about Jessica Dorrell's name being revealed. In my press conference, I referred to her simply as 'a lady.' My concern was to protect my family and a previous inappropriate relationship from becoming public. In hindsight, I showed a serious mistake in judgment when I chose not to be more specific about those details. Today, I've acknowledged this previous inappropriate relationship with my family and those within the athletic department administration.
"I apologize to my wife, Becky, and our four children, Chancellor (David) Gearhart, Jeff Long, the Board of Trustees, University administration, my coaching staff, student-athletes and the entire state of Arkansas. I have been humbled by the outpouring of concern and get-well wishes. I apologize to the Razorback Nation for the attention my actions have brought to the University of Arkansas and our program. I will fully cooperate with the University throughout this process and my hope is to repair my relationships with my family, my Athletic Director, the Razorback Nation and remain the head coach of the Razorback."
-One of the nation's most-prolific passing teams in 2011, Arkansas may have a somewhat different approach on offense this fall.
With quarterback Tyler Wilson returning, the Razorbacks aren't about to go to a triple-option run-oriented attack or anything as drastic as that.
But with a relatively inexperienced receiving corps and a solid stable of running backs, the running game could get more emphasis.
The Hogs are welcoming back Knile Davis, a 1,485-yard career rusher who missed last season with an ankle injury, along with the top rushers from 2011 in Dennis Johnson (670 yards) and Ronnie Wingo Jr. (458).
"We have to find a way to get production out of all three of them," coach Bobby Petrino said before the start of spring practice in mid-March, before the motorcycle accident in April that uncovered an inappropriate relationship with a 25-year-old Arkansas employee and led to him being placed on administrative leave. "Does that mean put two of them in the backfield at the same time? That's certainly something we'll work on and something we've done in years past and they've done a nice job on.
"They all bring a little bit different flavor to the position, what their strengths are and what they do well. They all can catch the ball out of the backfield and run really good routes."
How that situation works out will determine how the Hogs will operate in the fall.
"The challenge is to find what our personality is," Petrino said, "what our identity is on offense and who are the guys we're going to feed the ball to."
-Taver Johnson, hired in January as linebackers coach and assistant head coach after spending the previous five seasons at Ohio State, will run the football program until further notice, athletic director Jeff Long said on April 5.
New defensive coordinator Paul Haynes, who coached the Razorbacks in the bowl game, is going through his first spring in Fayetteville. Haynes, who spent the last seven years at Ohio State, was credited with giving the defense new life in the bowl win over Kansas State, particularly in improving the unit's tackling. In addition to Haynes, Paul Petrino (offensive coordinator) and Kevin Peoples (defensive line) are new members of the staff. Petrino is the younger brother of coach Bobby Petrino.
-Arkansas is listing RB Knile Davis, who missed last season with an ankle injury, as a redshirt junior, but coach Bobby Petrino expects this to be his last season with the Hogs. The coach expects Davis to enter next year's NFL draft. "We'll list him as a junior because he redshirted last year," Petrino said. "But we anticipate him having a great year and then coming out. That's what the plan is."
Arkansas will have to rebuild its receiving corps after the loss of Jarius Wright and Joe Adams. They accounted for 120 receptions for 1,769 yards and 15 touchdowns. Greg Childs is also gone, but Cobi Hamilton returns. The defense needs to continue the improvement it showed in the Cotton Bowl.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB Knile Davis -- Davis will get tender treatment because of the ankle injury that cost him the 2011 season. Defining his role respective to returnees Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo Jr. will be a priority in the spring.
LB Robert Atiga -- A junior college transfer from Snow College in Utah, Atiga should compete for one of the starting spots in the depleted linebacker corps.
WR Cobi Hamilton -- Hamilton probably didn't get the respect he deserved playing in the shadows of Jarius Wright and Joe Adams. He had 34 receptions last year and has to step up as the No. 1 guy this fall.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2012 OUTLOOK: Considering Arkansas' only two losses were to Alabama and LSU in 2011, it's not all that farfetched to see the Razorbacks as not only an SEC challenger but a BCS contender as well. With an improved running game, the offense doesn't figure to suffer, especially with veteran QB Tyler Wilson pulling the trigger. The key will be the defensive effort.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The running attack figures to pick up from the 137 yards a game it averaged last season, which should make up for the loss of WRs Jarius Wright and Joe Adams. And it's not like Wilson will be without any experienced targets to throw to with Cobi Hamilton (34 catches, 542 yards) returning. RBs Knile Davis, Dennis Johnson, and Ronnie Wingo also are capable receivers.
SCOUT THE DEFENSE: LB Alonzo Highsmith, is sitting out the spring after tearing a tendon in his pectoral muscle during a weight-lifting session. He is the only returning linebacker with much in the way of experience. The Hogs lose DE Jake Bequette, their top pass rusher, but welcome back DE Tenarius Wright, and Bryan Jones and Robert Thomas return at tackle. Half the secondary must be replaced. New coordinator Paul Haynes is coaching cornerbacks to play both the "boundary" and "field" sides, so that should help in developing depth. CB Darius Winston and S Eric Bennett are returning starters.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Both kickers -- P Dylan Breeding (45.3 average) and PK Zach Hocker (21-of-17 on field goals) -- return. Marquel Wade, who showed great speed as a freshman, and Johnson give the Hogs a top-flight return game.
RB Jonathan Williams -- Williams ran for over 1,000 yards as a high senior despite missing time to injuries. He'll have a hard time breaking into the rotation in 2012 but will be someone to watch in 2013.
WR Quinta Funderburk -- Funderburk had back-to-back 60-catch seasons his last two years in high school and is taking part in spring drills. That should give him a leg up in the fall.
WR Demetrius Wilson -- Wilson could be an immediate contributor as a junior college transfer.
-OT Jason Peacock was charged with felony theft of property after he turned himself in to police and admitted to using a stolen credit card to buy gas. The card belonged to a female student. Coach Bobby Petrino indefinitely suspended Peacock, who entered spring practice No. 1 on the depth chart after starting nine games in 2011.
-LB Alonzo Highsmith injured his left pectoral muscle during weightlifting workouts and is sitting out spring practice. Highsmith started all 13 games in 2011 and led the team in tackles-for-loss with 12.5. He had 4.5 sacks and an interception as well.
-DE Tenarius Wright is spending time at linebacker with because of the spot opened up by Highsmith's injury. With Arkansas' depth at end, Wright, who arrived on campus as a linebacker, could stay in the spot.
-RB Knile Davis is taking part in spring drills but on a "no contact" basis after missing last season because of an ankle injury.
-QB Brandon Mitchell, who was last year's backup, was dropped to No 3 on the depth chart behind No. 1 Tyler Wilson and No. 2 Brandon Allen heading into spring because of the time he spent away from the offseason program to be with the basketball team.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"Tackling is what I believe in." -- Defensive coordinator Paul Haynes, on the emphasis he puts on tackling when it comes to coaching defense.