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
”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
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.”