Jacksonville St.-Arkansas Preview
Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith noticed a look of
determination on Knile Davis’ face during class last Friday.
The No. 10 Razorbacks weren’t scheduled to take part in their
final preseason scrimmage until that evening, but Smith had no
doubt where his teammate’s thoughts were.
Davis’ excitement was understandable, given that the running
back hadn’t been tackled in more than a year – not since breaking
his left ankle during the preseason last August. That excitement
paled in comparison to the relief his teammates and coaches felt
after Davis emerged from the scrimmage without incident, setting
the stage for his return to action against Jacksonville State on
Saturday in the season opener.
”Knile is still Knile, from what I saw Friday night,” Smith
said. ”Everybody is going to be excited, and I know he’s going to
put on a show Saturday.”
Davis led all Southeastern Conference running backs with 1,322
yards rushing two seasons ago before missing last season with the
ankle injury. He took part in spring practice and was a part of
preseason camp throughout, but Arkansas coach John L. Smith elected
to hold Davis out of full contact drills until Friday’s
Smith liked what he saw from the junior, even if he was
initially less than pleased with the result of the first carry.
”The first time they tackled him all the way to the ground, he
coughed the ball up,” Smith said. ”But the ground caused the
fumble, so it would not have been a fumble. … He’s ready to go,
though. He’s excited. And I think it was good for him, without a
doubt, to take some hits and feel good about himself.”
Davis wasn’t made available by Arkansas on Monday, but he
tweeted ”Hahaha still got it,” following the closed
The preseason was largely uneventful for the Razorbacks.
Linebackers Tenarius Wright and Alonzo Highsmith, along with safety
Eric Bennett, battled minor injuries, but by in large Arkansas
emerged from camp healthy and eager to build on last season’s 11-2
The lack of suspense was just fine for first-team All-SEC
quarterback Tyler Wilson. It was a far cry from the spring, when
coach Bobby Petrino was fired for hiring his mistress and initially
lying about her presence at his April 1 motorcycle accident.
”There’s not any big stories to write during the fall camp,”
Wilson laughed. ”Everybody’s settled in, and I think we know what
to expect. Everything’s business as usual here.”
Wilson served as a stabilizing presence during the spring
following Petrino’s firing and prior to Smith’s hiring. The senior
threw for 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns in his first season as the
starter last year, and he made it clear after deciding to bypass
the NFL draft that he did so to try and win SEC and national
championships in his final season.
That hasn’t changed as he prepares to open the season against a
Gamecocks team that is well-versed against SEC competition, having
defeated Mississippi in double overtime two seasons ago.
”This is a statement game for us,” Wilson said. ”We’re going
to put on a show.”
Arkansas led the SEC in total offense and scoring last season,
and it’s led the conference in passing offense in each of the last
three seasons. That was under Petrino’s watchful eye, though, and
the Razorbacks will be watched closely this season under the
personable and ever-entertaining Smith.
Smith signed a 10-month contract when he was hired in April, and
his future at Arkansas after this season is anything but certain.
The former Michigan State and Louisville coach isn’t looking that
far ahead, but he does expect at moment of reflection when he takes
the field Saturday as a head coach for the first time since being
fired by the Spartans after the 2006 season.
”Probably when we come out of the tunnel, come through the `A’;
I’m excited about that,” Smith said. ”I’m fired up, and I know
our kids are going to be fired up and are looking forward to having
a good year, having a great year, a special year.”