Arkansas RB Davis taking on a leadership role

Knile Davis walked up and down the line during Arkansas’ spring

practice this week.

The Razorbacks’ running back offered pats and words of

encouragement for everyone and anyone who would listen.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino wasn’t going easy on the team

during its first practice back following spring break, and Davis

felt the need to step up.

Soft-spoken and comfortable in the shadow of quarterback Ryan

Mallett last season, Davis is now embracing a new role as

leader.

”Practice is hard, Coach Petrino is a demanding guy,” Davis

said. ”Sometimes a lot of young guys get their feelings hurt

because they’re not really used to that, so I try to keep them up,

keep them in the practice, things like that.

”I’m just really trying to take over a leadership role. A lot

of guys respect me, so I try to encourage them and keep them

right.”

Davis is a quiet guy, but everyone in the Southeastern

Conference knows him. Last year as a sophomore, he averaged 134.4

yards rushing over his final nine games and finished second in the

conference behind Auburn’s Cam Newton with 1,322 yards rushing.

Davis also had 12 rushing touchdowns during that stretch, helping

Arkansas reach its first BCS game in the Sugar Bowl.

With Mallett headed to the NFL, Petrino has watched Davis step

into his new role. Earlier this month, Davis ran a 4.29 40-yard

dash despite adding more than 10 pounds during the offseason.

It wasn’t his performance, however, that stood out as much to

Petrino as what happened before and after the workouts.

”On the day we tested, he was there for every group,” Petrino

said. ”He watched the guys before him, tested, stayed and watched

the guys after him and really understands that’s really going to be

a big part of his role.”

Davis finished last season at 218 pounds. He weighed in at 230

prior to spring practice, which is what his offseason goal was.

Davis said he wanted the extra weight to help deliver punishment

while blocking over the course of a season, during which he expects

to lose weight because of conditioning, as long as it didn’t affect

his speed and quickness.

So far, so good.

”Knile is the most explosive person,” Arkansas offensive

lineman Grant Cook said. ”I mean, that guy is amazing, an amazing

athlete. He’s one of the most explosive people on this team.”

Davis said his performance last season has helped carry the

weight of his words to teammates during the offseason.

”We listened to Mallett because we knew he was going to be

there,” Davis said. ”We knew he was going to come through for us.

I guess now they listen to me because they know I’m going to come

through for them. That helps out a lot.”

Davis said he’s already put last season behind him and doesn’t

feel any extra pressure to lead while Tyler Wilson and Brandon

Mitchell battle to fill Mallett’s spot at quarterback. His top

offseason priority is learning to work with an offensive line that

is missing three starters from last season, including starting

tackles Ray Dominguez and DeMarcus Love.

He was concerned about the young group up front before spring,

but Davis said they have shown steady improvement.

In the meantime, Davis plans to continue to assert himself on

the field and in the huddle.

”I’m real cool with these guys,” he said. ”It’s not, ‘I’m

telling you what to do.’ I’m just encouraging them to keep going.

That’s all really being a leader is to me.”