During a Razorback Club event in Harrison this week, Head Coach Bobby Petrino was very optimistic and upbeat about running back Knile Davis' health. Petrino referred to how Davis posted a blazing 4.33 in the 40-yard dash to lead the team in pre-spring testing. The 226 pound bruiser has declared himself completely healthy and feels ready to get back on the field after missing the bulk of the 2011 season with a fractured ankle.
The Hogs finished ninth in the SEC in rushing last year with Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo manning the ground attack. Both are solid players capable of spectacular plays at times, but neither has the combination of explosiveness and tough between-the-tackle running capabilities that Davis brings to the table.
Johnson and Wingo will be back next year, along with sophomore-to-be Kody Walker, a 6'2" 235 pound sledgehammer that Petrino loves to utilize on the goal line. Freshmen signees Nate Holmes, Donovan Roberts, and Jonathan Williams will all join the team in the fall and have the chance to impress the coaches.
The offensive line must return to 2010 form in order to give Davis the chance to match his SEC league leading 1,362 yards and 13 touchdowns. Tackles Jason Peacock and Brey Cook will work to contain the edges, while the inside trio of Alvin Bailey and Mitch Smothers at guard and Travis Swanson at center attempt to plow a lane to gain the 'chunk' yardage that Petrino craves. Luke Charpentier,Tyler Deacon and Marcus Danenhauer saw playing time last year and will figure into the rotation as well.
Petrino loves to lead the tailback with the fullback, and Kiero Small proved to be vital in short yardage situations last season, knocking linebackers out of the hole in fierce collisions. Tight ends Chris Gragg, Austin Tate, and newcomer Demetrius Dean must be able to provide solid run blocking against SEC defensive ends if the running game is going to flourish.
If Knile Davis can stay healthy and the Razorbacks can find consistent, complimentary yardage from the other backs, the Hogs have a chance to return to a balanced attack in 2012.