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Opportunities in Bobby Petrino's Return to Arkansas

Bobby Petrino
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Saying that Bobby Petrino's exit from the University of Arkansas in 2012 was unceremonious would be the understatement of the century.

After leading the Razorbacks to back-to-back season with at least 10 wins, all seemed well for Petrino and Arkansas. Heading into the 2012 season, expectations were sky-high for a coach and a program that were both highly regarded as one of the nation's best.

Unfortunately, it all came crashing down in an instant.

One motorcycle crash and 12 years later, Bobby Petrino is back at the University of Arkansas. Instead of replacing Houston Nutt, however, he replaces the ill-fated Dan Enos as offensive coordinator for the Razorbacks, following Enos' abysmal eight-game tenure with the school in 2023.

Following an extremely disappointing 4-8 season in which Arkansas' offense averaged just over 17 points per game in SEC play, it's up to Petrino to turn around Arkansas' offense.

Instead of Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson hurling the rock for Petrino, he'll instead enlist the help of Boise State transfer Taylen Green, who helped lead the Broncos to a Mountain West championship in 2023.

With Green at QB, Petrino will welcome back a myriad of receivers, including Isaac Teslaa, Tyrone Broden, and Arkansas' leading receiver in 2023, Andrew Armstrong. Combined with lauded sophomore tight end Luke Hasz, the Arkansas receiving core could be a sneaky good group in a loaded SEC.

In the backfield, Petrino will be able to utilize former Utah running back Ja'Quinden Jackson, who at 235 pounds, will serve as a wild hog running rampant through SEC defenses - that is, if Arkansas' offensive line has improved enough over the offseason to open up any holes.

Bobby Petrino
© Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

With the struggles of Enos' second tenure at Arkansas put behind Sam Pittman and the Razorbacks, one has to wonder - what can Petrino do in his second stint in Fayetteville?

Off-field issues aside, Petrino was fabulous at Arkansas, with his lone losing season coming in his inaugural campaign as head coach in 2008. Three consecutive years of at least eight wins followed, led by prolific offenses that lit up the scoreboards across the country.

Of course, college football has changed immensely since Petrino's office last overlooked northwest Arkansas, but the concept of Petrino's power-spread offense is still as dangerous in 2024 as it was back in 2010.

Let's not mince words - Taylen Green is no Ryan Mallett, but he showed flashes of brilliance in Arkansas' spring game, throwing beautiful balls to the end zone for scores. One scrimmage doesn't guarantee results the following fall, but any sign of competence from an offense that was dormant last season is a very positive sign.

Arkansas fans certainly shouldn't put the weight of the world on Petrino's shoulders this season, as defense and special teams both have to hold up their end of the bargain, but an offense that scores at least 25 points per game in SEC play will be necessary for Arkansas to get back into a bowl game. A Week Two test on the road against Big 12 foe Oklahoma State could set the tone for what the Arkansas offense is capable of in 2024.

Bobby Petrino won't be able to singlehandedly lift Arkansas back to national prominence in 2024, but if his offense lives up to the expectations put forth in spring ball, expect Arkansas to be in the mix for an eight or nine-win season.

If things go horribly wrong, expect Arkansas fans to have no shortage of neck brace jokes on tap.


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