Bobby Petrino said it's too soon to say if his Western Kentucky football team will be as potent as his teams at U of L and Arkansas.
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WDRB) – In his final three seasons at Arkansas, Bobby Petrino directed offenses that averaged at least 36 points per game. At Louisville, Petrino pushed that average to 49.8 during the 2004 season.
Petrino has created an offense that is the envy of EA Sports. By the fourth quarter opponents started praying Petrino's guys would take a knee.
After a year on the sidelines, Petrino returns to college football this season at Western Kentucky. His Hilltoppers open against Kentucky in Nashville three weeks from Saturday (Aug. 31) and then visit another Southeastern Conference team (Tennessee) the following weekend.
College football analyst Todd Blackledge is already on record predicting WKU will upset either UK or the Vols – if you would consider a Hilltoppers' victory in either game an upset.
The next question is automatic: Will this be another Petrino team that can score, score, score?
"I don't know yet," Petrino said. "We'll find that out. We've got to play through our strengths. We've always talked about F-T-S - feed the studs. Right now that would be our running backs and tight ends.
"It doesn't mean that we can't score a lot of points with them. We're certainly going to be aggressive and have fun doing it."
Petrino certainly appeared that he was having fun Tuesday, bouncing around Houchens-Smith Stadium and barking instructors at his team – newcomers during an early afternoon session, veterans in an early evening practice.
Petrino's practices will be open to the public until Aug. 16, a dramatic change from his four seasons at Louisville. The Toppers need to keep building the buzz. On Tuesday there were fewer than 10 fans in the stadium when practice began, another reminder that Petrino is not at Arkansas or Louisville any more.
The football world will be watching. Watching to see if Petrino still looks like the most dynamic offensive coach on the planet. Watching to see if WKU fans respond to his product. Watching to discover where Petrino will take this program – and take his career back to the days when he was considered one of the 10 best coaches in the game.
"Right now, at this point, we're not even worrying about the opening game," Petrino said. "We're just concentrating on how to do things right and trying to learn how not to beat ourselves because that will be the best chance we have to win the first game – by not beating ourselves."
Scoring is Petrino's specialty. He is the Joseph Abboud of quarterback design. You know the list – Stefan LeFors, Brian Brohm, Hunter Cantwell, Ryan Mallett, Tyler Wilson.
WKU fans are eager to discover which Hilltoppers' quarterback will be added to the list – Brandon Doughty, Damarcus Smith, Nelson Fishback or Todd Porter.
Doughty, a redshirt junior, has completed 14 passes in 25 attempts without a touchdown. Smith, the Seneca High product, has not played in two seasons. Fishback played one season at Butte Community College, the same small school in California where Aaron Rodgers got his start. Porter arrives from O'Fallon (Ill.) High School. Not one of them has completed a pass for more than 21 yards at the FBS level of the game.
Jeff Brohm, Petrino's offensive coordinator, worked with the two new guys in the early session and then with Doughty and Smith in the early evening.
Petrino won't wait for Mark Stoops and Kentucky to put pressure on his guys. Petrino will do it. He always has. That's a primary feature of his system.
"We've got to put a lot of pressure on those guys and see who's going to be ready to compete," Petrino said.
"Brandon went through spring ball and did a really nice job. He's very coachable. He's got very good intelligence. He understands the game. He can make different throws that you need to make.
"Damarcus is very talented. He has shown flashes of his talent. But he's been away from the game for awhile so he's rusty. But his first day back he actually looked better than he did all spring. I'm excited about that.
"The two newcomers are really talented. They can throw it. They've got good velocity. They can snap it and they're both athletic. It will be good competition."
Competition that Western Kentucky fans – and the college football world – will be watching.