It's Finally Game Week For Petrino
For Bobby Petrino, Saturday cannot get here soon enough.
It has been a long time since the motorcycle crash that changed everything in his coaching career and his personal life.
I talked to Petrino today about finally getting another game week as a coach.
"We had a good camp. We're excited for it to be game week," Petrino told Football.com. "They (the players) worked extremely hard during our a two-a-days portion of camp and last week we worked on half getting better as individual drills and half getting ready for Kentucky."
Western Kentucky plays in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday in Nashville. The two schools are playing for the fifth time ever and first played each other in 2008. The Hilltoppers defeated the Big Blue last year in a 32-31 overtime thriller.
But then-Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggart, who has moved on to South Florida as the Bulls' head coach, directed the upset. Now Petrino enters year number one as he gets back into coaching.
We all know that Petrino's coaching identity relies on a successful passing game and he will be searching for one Saturday.
"Our passing game has been a work in progress. We're working hard on the timing," Petrino said. "We're making sure the receivers understand that they need to be in the exact spot that they are supposed to be. The quarterback needs to get the ball out of his hand on time. Running backs and tight ends need to be responsible for protection (and being) exactly where they need to be."
That is beauty of talking to the offensive-minded Petrino, analyzing, dissecting, and visualizing offensive plays he draws up and coaches to perfection.
"One of the things that is encouraging to me about our passing game is some of our new young guys," Petrino told me. "It's always something that helps the passing the game.
"Willie McNeal has also shown the ability to run after the catch and make plays after we get the ball in his hands."
McNeal will look to repeat last year's performance against the Wildcats. The Bradenton, Fla., native had three receptions and one touchdown in last year's win.
Petrino has surrounded himself with a coaching staff full of experience and familiarity to help install his offensive system. Bringing in Jeff Brohm as offensive coordinator has been a key hire.
"It's great to have Coach Brohm back. We worked together for four years and really know each other very well," said Petrino. "Jeff always adds a lot to our offense with his creativity, knowledge and his background with the Bill Walsh West Coast system."
Brohm spent 2003-06 as Petrino's quarterbacks coach at Louisville.
Having a familiar coach for the offensive line is another huge aspect, and Petrino has that in Neil Callaway.
Callaway's time as an assistant at Auburn, Alabama and Georgia to go along with five years of head coaching experience at UAB is an asset.
"His experience as a head coach and all of his experiences in the SEC adds a lot to our staff. There's a lot of times I ask him for advice on things to do in the program because of his experience as a head coach," Petrino said.
Kentucky and Western Kentucky will kick off at 6 p.m. CT Saturday from LP Field in Nashville. The game will be televised on ESPN News.
"We're looking forward to the preparation for a very challenging opening game," Petrino said.