FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — No. 7 Arkansas is undergoing a coaching staff overhaul.
Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson resigned Tuesday, becoming the third Arkansas assistant to leave in the last two days. Former offensive coordinator Garrick McGee was named the Alabama-Birmingham head coach on Monday, the same day former special teams coach John L. Smith left to coach at Weber State.
Robinson led the Razorbacks defense for four seasons, coming to Arkansas after serving as the secondary coach for the St. Louis Rams. The 55-year-old also spent one season as the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator in 2004.
The Razorbacks were 72nd in the country in total defense in Robinson's first season in 2008, falling to 89th in 2009. They improved to 36th last season but fell to 51st this year, allowing 371.4 yards per game -- ninth in the Southeastern Conference and well behind SEC West powerhouses LSU and Alabama.
"I want to thank Willy Robinson for his role in helping our defense, which he leaves in better shape than when he arrived," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "I have the utmost respect for Willy Robinson as an individual who wants the best for the young men he coaches. I give Willy credit for his part in the building process the last four years and wish him future success."
Arkansas faces Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 6, and it was immediately unclear how the coaching staff would look for the game.
The Razorbacks have hired former Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, Bobby's Petrino's brother. Paul Petrino will fill McGee's role as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, returning to the school where he served as offensive coordinator from 2008-09.
Petrino helped lead an Illini offense that broke school records for total points (423) and points per game (32.5) in 2010. This year started strong, but the Illini have lost six straight games in a meltdown that cost head coach Ron Zook his job and had Petrino looking elsewhere.
"Paul has had several options with high level programs the past few days, and I'm excited he made the decision to rejoin our program," Bobby Petrino said. "His experience the last two seasons, blended with our philosophy, will give us continuity with our aggressive scheme."
Arkansas (10-2, 6-2 SEC) responded well this season after the departure of record-setting quarterback Ryan Mallett. Tyler Wilson played well after the Razorbacks lost running back Knile Davis to injury and the team took a seven-game winning streak into their showdown at top-ranked LSU last month.
The Hogs were nearly two-touchdown underdogs, but pledged to play passionately in memory of late teammate Garrett Uekman, who died last Sunday. Arkansas built a 14-0 lead that was by far LSU's largest deficit of the season, but the Tigers responded and pulled away for a 41-17 win.
The Razorbacks wound up ranked No. 6 in the BCS, the highest team not to receive a bid to one of the coveted bowls. Arkansas couldn't be selected because the SEC already had two participants with LSU and Alabama, the two teams that beat the Hogs this season.
That was good news for the Cotton Bowl, which was happy to snap up the Razorbacks and Kansas State.