Let’s start slow and ease our way into this: Bobby Petrino is definitely the most qualified coach currently residing in the Sun Belt. After tantilizing fanbases at Louisville and Arkansas, split by a dalliance with the Atlanta Falcons, Petrino says he’s refreshed, a new man and back at home at Western Kentucky, even if he never would have imagined himself living in Bowling Green, Ky., as recently as 15 months ago.
We talked to Petrino about how he recruits at Western Kentucky, his long term plans and how he spent his year away from the sidelines on the latest installment of 10 Questions With.
To view past installments of 10 Questions With, please visit the archives.
1) What needs to happen for 2013 to be a successful season for you?
Petrino: That’s a hard question to say what would make it successful. What I try to do is just approach it that we’re going to go through the right process, that we’re going to work hard to get better each day, work hard at our players’ development, learning how to go about what to do in the meetings, how you do it on the field. Winning is the end process of doing everything else right. We’ve just got to take it one day at a time and then evaluate it at the end of the season.
2) Fair or unfair, the perception out there says you’ll be coaching somewhere else in the near future. How do you address that with recruits?
Petrino: It was a family decision to come here, a place where I feel like is home. My children feel like the state of Kentucky is their home, where they grew up. I have a daughter that’s here in Bowling Green and another one that’s on the golf team at the University of Louisville. It’s been a great fit for my family and that really is what played into the decision to take the job.
3) What was your first team meeting with the players like?
Petrino: It was kind of different in the fact that they were still preparing for the bowl game. They had a staff here that was coaching them through the bowl game. I told them I would be out on the field evlauating, seeing what our needs were in recruiting. I said, “I expect you to be respectful and finish the bowl game up right.” I was impressed with them. I thought they all did a good job handling it. That was a weird situation that you really don’t understand unless you’ve been a part of it. I’ve been on both parts, coaching a team that you knew you weren’t going to be with the next year and now watching another team get coached. It’s a difficult situation but I thought our players here did a good job with it.
4) Many people out there are naming Western Kentucky the Sun Belt favorites simply based on your presence on the sidelines. How do you feel about that?
Petrino: It’s going to be a very difficult, close conference race. You look at Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas State, what they all have coming back. Troy’s always a good team that has talent and is very well coached. I think it’s going to be very competitive and it’s going to be very interesting to see how it all plays out. We’ve got to be able to win all our home games. If we can do that, that gives us a chance to go on the road and win the conference.
5) Did you consider doing anything with any NFL franchises during your year off?
Petrino: I didn’t consider doing anything. I just wanted to get back into doing something that I loved and certainly that was one avenue that I explored. I’m just really lucky and fortunate that Dr. Randsell and Todd Stewart were really aggressive in coming after me for this job.
6) Where do you see yourself coaching seven or eight years from now, college football or the NFL? Why?
Petrino: I’m not thinking about that, man. I’m just worrying about this season and how we’re doing.
7) We’d heard that you spent some time visiting some other staffs during the past year. What were some of your favorites?
Petrino: One of the places I really liked, I went out to Cal and got to spend time with Jeff Tedford and his staff, watch them work. Coach Tedford’s done an excellent job coaching quarterbacks. To really see that and watch how they did it, how they went about their business. You always learn something from anybody that you visit with. I was really impressed with that.
8) We understand you also made a couple visits to see Will Hall at West Alabama. Is that correct? What did you like about that place?
Petrino: I did. Will Hall has always kind of followed us around a little bit. He came up and watched us when I was at Louisville and spring ball at Arkansas. He asked me to come spend time evaluating them and what they were doing. I enjoyed it. I grew up in small college football so it was fun to go down and see how they’re doing. You can really tell why he’s been so successful, he does a great job running the program.
9) What was the process like in assembling your coaching and personnel staff?
Petrino: I wanted to find some guys that were very experienced, that I had worked with before and understood how we worked. I was very fortunate to get Jeff Brohm and Nick Holt as our two coordinators. Jeff worked with me before and I was an assistant with Nick two different times. And then to be able to get Mike Cassity and Don Dunn and (Neil) Callaway, guys that are very experienced and understand what this profession is all about and help me in all the different things that we do. Then I was able to get some young guys that we have to grow and help learn the profession but they had played their positions at the highest level. I’m excited about Lamar Thomas, Kolby Smith, L.D. Scott, guys that are young but are going to be great coaches before it’s overwith.
9a) Todd Monken told us that the number of calls or contacts he got from guys looking for jobs on his staff would number in the thousands. Was it a similar experience for you?
Petrino: I don’t know about thousands but there were a number of guys contacting me to get jobs. It’s one of those things where I was more comfortable with guys that I knew.
10) Along with yourself, defensive coordinator Nick Holt and offensive line coach Neil Callaway are both guys that have seen the heights of the profession. Is that a common link that helped you get them to Western Kentucky?
We just went through the process and both of them had an interest, were able to come in and check things out, see where we’re at. The other thing that’s so good about Nick and Coach Callaway is that both of them have been head coaches so they understand what it’s like. I can go to them for advice and sometimes I just have to look at them when certain things come up and we’re thinking the same or they give me an opinion. It’s great to have the experience that we have on our staff.