By Paul Schmidt
Get ready for some shootouts.
Remember this season when it seemed as though the defensively-challenged Illini would only win games by scores of say, 40-38? And when the offense proved feeble at the beginning of the year, how the season unraveled?
Yeah, that won’t be a problem with Paul Petrino as offensive coordinator.
The offensive guru and former Arkansas Razorback OC has learned under the tutelage of his brother, Bobby. He’s also led one of the nation’s most prolific offenses at Louisville, and briefly honed his skills in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons.
And while his brother is routinely called a phony and a turncoat in both the states of Kentucky and Georgia, the younger Petrino is generally viewed as simply an offensive genius.
Anyone who watched Ryan Mallet at Michigan knows this. He stunk the joint up while a Wolverine, and after transferring to Arkansas, looked like one of the nation’s best quarterbacks, ranking sixth in the country in passing efficiency, averaging 285 yards per game and throwing for 29 touchdowns.
For those keeping track at home, that’s roughly 6 times more TDs than the Illini scored through the air all season. I kid, I kid…mostly.
Perhaps more intriguing is that two of his Razorback wide receivers this season averaged more than 60 receiving yards per game — critical, if you think about a certain top WR who might jump to the NFL...
Petrino was full of soundbites during his introduction: When asked what type of an offense he expected to run, he told reporters, “We’re going to run the F. T. S — Feed The Studs,” again, a shout out to Rejus Benn if he wants to come back.
He also said, “We’re going to make them defend us. We’re going to try and punish the safeties,” which I would take to mean that opposing teams better be ready for a lot of over-the-top throws from either Jacob Charest or Eddie McGee or whoever Petrino decides to pull out of the stands to play QB.
Perhaps the best part, from a success of the Illini standpoint, was the statement about the running back situation and his evaluation of the talent: “That number 5, he can really play. I expect there’s a lot we can do with him.”
This is perhaps the best news of the hiring — A more diverse passing attack, and a rushing attack featuring Mikel Leshoure. Now, granted, I was not his biggest fan until the end of this season, but I’m now firmly implanted on Leshoure’s bandwagon. Even if Illinois passes the ball 40 or 50 times per game, Petrino needs to design an offense that gets Leshoure at least 20 touches per game, in any capacity.
In short, this is an amazing and incredible hire for the Illini. Petrino KNOWS offense, and many feel his was the offensive mind behind his brothers’ successes all along. If he brings in an offense that is half as dynamic or effective at scoring points as his Louisville or Arkansas teams were, the Big Ten will be in trouble.
How good of a hire is this for the Illini? Petrino’s offenses during his 50-game Louisville tenure scored over 40 points 28 times. More than 50 points 14 times. More than SIXTY POINTS, SEVEN TIMES!
Yes, it just might be fun to be an Illinois football fan again.