Smith: Davis to face contact in scrimmage
John L. Smith finally answered the question Arkansas fans and observers across the Southeastern Conference wanted the answer to.
When will running back Knile Davis take part in a full-contact scrimmage?
Smith said after Thursday's practice that Davis will receive carries when the No. 10 Razorbacks take part in a mock game Friday evening. It will mark the first time Davis has been tackled since last August, when he broke his left ankle during a preseason scrimmage.
The junior, who led all SEC running backs with 1,322 yards rushing two seasons ago, missed all of last season following the injury. He returned to practice late last season and has taken part in preseason practices this month - with the exception of Arkansas' scrimmages.
Smith said early in the summer that he expected Davis to face full contact prior to Arkansas' season opener against Jacksonville State on Sept. 1. However, he had recently joked about questions on Davis facing contact - declining to offer up his plan for Davis - before finally relenting Thursday.
''I'll be perfectly honest with you,'' Smith said. ''My intent, after we get talking and watching and practicing and thinking every night, I finally came up with a deal that `I'm not going to play him (until the game).
''And then he vetoed me. And that's perfectly honest.''
Friday's practice is closed, and Smith said he wasn't sure how many carried Davis will get. He did say the scrimmage would be an abbreviated one, with about 40 plays ''max.''
''I don't know how many, to be honest with you,'' Smith said. ''I guess it's a deal like if he takes the first handoff and breaks three tackles and scores, that's enough and what you'd like to see.
''I think that's going to be something we play by ear and let Knile kind of determine a little of that.''
The 6-foot, 226-pound Davis has faced the usual bumps that come with wearing pads during the preseason, but he's been relegated to holding his helmet in each of the Razorbacks' scrimmages. He didn't take part in full contact during the spring, either, but he's insisted throughout that he's been ready for face full contact.
He's also said he was comfortable with whatever decision the coaches made about his return to full contact.
Without Davis, Arkansas still led the SEC in total offense and scoring last season - finishing 11-2 and winning the Cotton Bowl over Kansas State.
Davis considered leaving for the NFL following last season before deciding to return along with first-team All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson. Davis burst onto the national scene in 2010, when he averaged 147 yards rushing over the Razorbacks' final seven games, capping off the breakout season with a 139-yard performance in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State.
Injuries are nothing new to Davis. His list of ailments, dating to his junior year of high school, includes three broken ankles and two broken collarbones.
Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Jason Veltkamp said last month that Davis has been a full-go in the weight room, setting a personal best with a 570-pound squat in March.
Also, trainer Matt Summers said at the time that he didn't ''have any worries'' about Davis' health.
''I'll be watching him closely just because of how good he is, but other than that, as far as his ankle goes, I don't have any concerns about that.''