For a day, Bobby Petrino will return to the big stage.
The controversial coach will open his first season guiding Missouri State, a Football Championship Subdivision program, on Saturday night at No. 5 Oklahoma.
Petrino has a 119-56 career college record in 14 seasons at Louisville, Arkansas and Western Kentucky. He looks forward to helping the Bears bounce back from a 1-10 finish last season.
”I’m real excited about the opportunity here,” he said. ”I think we’ve got a really good base to recruit to. We’ve got a really good area where we can go out and find not only high school players but junior college players. And I think the conference that we’re in (Missouri Valley) is a tremendous challenge.”
Petrino had a successful run at Louisville before taking over the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. He resigned during the 2007 season after just 13 games and took the job at Arkansas. He led the Razorbacks to the Sugar Bowl following the 2010 season and a No. 5 final ranking the following season. A few months after the 2011 season, he was injured in a motorcycle accident that exposed an extramarital affair with an athletic department employee and led to his firing.
He eventually returned to Louisville. During the 2016 season, the Cardinals went 9-4, reached as high as No. 3 in the AP poll and quarterback Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy. But after going 8-5 in 2017, the bottom fell out the following season and he was fired.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley is impressed with Petrino’s resume and success.
”A head coach that I have a ton of respect for,” Riley said. ”He’s obviously had some elite moments in his career and he’s coached some elite players. We certainly have a ton of respect for any football team that Bobby Petrino is the head coach of.”
Spencer Rattler, a redshirt freshman, has been named Oklahoma’s starting quarterback. He was the consensus No. 1 quarterback nationally in the 2019 recruiting class and is the Big 12’s Preseason Newcomer of the Year.
He said he’s well prepared after watching Jalen Hurts, last year’s Heisman runner-up, run the team last year. Hurts now is with the Philadelphia Eagles.
”I think getting to learn under Jalen was big for me,” Rattler said. ”Just seeing how he prepared and how he came with the game — that was a big year for me sitting back and kind of soaking everything in.”
Running back Kennedy Brooks and defensive lineman Jalen Redmond have reportedly opted out for Oklahoma, and neither is listed on the Sooners’ roster. Riley has said he will not confirm opt-outs, leaving it to the players to make announcements if they choose.
Brooks, a preseason All-Big 12 pick, rushed for 2,067 yards and 20 touchdowns in two years. Redmond led the team with 6.5 sacks last season and had 11 tackles for loss. He was arrested and charged with DUI in August.
RUNNING BACK DEPTH
Oklahoma will start the process of sorting out its loaded running back room under new position coach DeMarco Murray.
Junior T.J. Pledger is the starter. Riley said redshirt freshman Marcus Major and true freshman Seth McGowan also have practiced well and will have opportunities.
Rhamondre Stevenson ran for 515 yards last season and averaged eight yards per carry, but he was suspended for the Peach Bowl last season and Riley hasn’t made an announcement on his status.
INTO THE FIRE
Jaden Johnson will be Missouri State’s school’s first freshman to start at quarterback since 2011.
Johnson redshirted at Southern Mississippi last season. He was rated the No. 20 pro-style quarterback in the nation by 247sports.com his senior year. The Memphis, Tennessee, product was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN.
”He’s very talented,” Petrino said. ”He’s got a great mindset for a quarterback. He’s got tremendous leadership qualities. And I think he’ll just keep getting better and better.”
Missouri State will play just three games in the fall.
After Saturday’s game, the Bears are set to play at Central Arkansas on Sept. 26 and at home against Central Arkansas on Oct. 17. The Missouri Valley Football Conference portion of the schedule will be played during the spring.
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