By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Arkansas News Bureau
ROGERS — Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino wondered how much leadership his team would possess before preseason practices began this month.
It appears any of his concerns have been alleviated after 15 days of practices.
Petrino, who spoke at the team’s football kickoff luncheon in the John Q. Hammons Convention Center, said he’s confident in the team’s leadership two weeks before the season opener. The Razorbacks have elected six captains, but Petrino said it extends further.
"It takes everyone to make a special team," Petrino said in front of an estimated crowd of 1,000. "You have to have leadership. ... We’ve had a real positive attitude in camp. Guys have come to practice each day, willing to grind, work hard, fight through the weather, fight through the heat and continue to concentrate and get better. That’s what gives us a chance to be a good football team."
Petrino was the final speaker at an event emceed by ESPN college basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes. It was the third summer the luncheon, which was Petrino’s idea, has been held in Northwest Arkansas.
Arkansas’ players were in attendance, too, sitting with fans at the 100-plus tables spread around the room. Five of the team’s six captains — quarterback Tyler Wilson, defensive end Jake Bequette, linebacker Jerry Franklin, receiver Jarius Wright and linebacker Jerico Nelson — took part in a question-and-answer session intended to provide a few laughs and a little insight into the program.
Petrino believes his team, which elected captains before preseason camp began, made solid choices in its leaders. He relayed a message he once heard from General Norman Schwarzkopf, saying great leaders carry three important characteristics — competence, love for the cause and love for teammates.
It wasn’t the only story Petrino told in a 15-minute session. Petrino was asked about the team’s Friday night schedule and his routine on gameday. Petrino also provided a peek at the scene in Arkansas’ locker room as the team waits for its chance to take the field.
"I look at the countdown clock a lot," Petrino said. "It’s different than when you hit your snooze alarm in the morning and how quickly that five minutes goes or that nine minutes goes. When you’re sitting there in the locker room walking back and forth, one minute feels like an hour. That clock will not tick."
Arkansas’ players must feel the same about the opener as it inches closer, although Petrino said there’s to do in the next two weeks.
The Razorbacks, coming off a 10-3 season in 2010, are ranked No. 14 in the USA Today preseason coaches’ poll. Petrino hasn’t been shy about embracing expectations and said it’s a lesson he learned from his father, Bob Sr.
"It’s OK to have high expectations," Petrino said. "Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t win. Don’t let anybody sell you short.
"I think that’s what we learned as a group, as a football team, as a coaching staff, as a state. It’s OK to have high expectations."