There has been speculation for weeks that Arkansas running back Knile Davis may return before the end of the season, and the fact that he has been practicing for the last several weeks was confirmed yesterday by the Arkansas coaching staff.
Davis, who was a pre-season All-SEC selection, broke his ankle in the team's first scrimmage of fall camp and was thought to be lost for the season. As Arkansas heads down the home stretch and in the BCS conversation, Hog fans have gotten understandably excited at the chance of having Davis for that run.
On Wednesday, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino announced that Davis would not return this season, and here are some reasons why that is the right decision.
It's what is best for Knile
No doubt that Davis would return if the staff wanted him to, so it is a credit to the Arkansas coaches that they are putting him on ice for the entire season. In so doing, Davis has two more years of eligibility left at the University of Arkansas.
Davis is a big-time pro prospect and probably would have gone pro after this season if not for the injury. If he burned up a season of eligibility for what would be, at the most, four games this year, he would only have one season left to prove his worth at the next level. With his history of injury, it would make me nervous for him to only have one season left to get it done.
One of the biggest disappointments of the season has been to watch Greg Childs struggle to return to form, and I wish that he had one more season to get his legs under him. This way, Davis will have that extra season, should he need it.
It's too late
I wrote early in the season, that we might see Davis return this season, but the time table I proposed for his return was at the mid-way point after the bye week. That would have given him the Ole Miss and Vanderbilt games to get his legs under him before the home stretch. With only two regular season games remaining on the Hog's schedule, it just isn't worth burning a year of eligibility.
The running game is finding its rhythm
The decision might have been more difficult for Bobby Petrino if the Razorback running game was still struggling the way it did early in the season, but the Hogs have actually improved quite a bit in that department over the last four games. Dennis Johnson is healthy and carrying most of the load for an Arkansas team that is second in the SEC in yards per carry.
Johnson has run for 508 yards and has caught passes for another 258 yards this season. He averages 6.6 yards per carry and has begun to hit the big play the way Davis did down the stretch last season. Ronnie Wingo Jr. and Broderick Green have also continued to contribute in the run game to give the Hogs the offensive balance they have been searching for.
No one would go so far as to say that the Arkansas offense wouldn't be better with Davis, but you could ask the question of whether it would be enough of a difference to use up a year of his eligibility. The answer seems to be an obvious "no".