Bahn: Could Holding Knile Davis From Full Contact Be Best For Razorbacks At This Point?

by Chris Bahn  on Friday, Mar. 30, 2012 1:00 pm  

How much contact Knile Davis gets this spring is still up for debate at Arkansas. (Photo by Mark Wagner)

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Coaches have seen a familiar burst at the line of scrimmage from Knile Davis early in spring practice. They’ve noted he cuts as well as he ever has. Teammates say Davis is doing his part to provide leadership and foster competition among teammates.

Davis displayed his usual strength and speed in offseason workouts. His 40-yard dash time put the 6-2, 240-pound back in the class of wide receivers and defensive backs. Davis’ bench press and squat numbers were on par with the team’s defensive tackles.

What the Razorbacks haven’t seen yet is how Davis handles significant contact. Earlier this week the decision was still being made on how available Davis, who fractured his ankle in a scrimmage last fall, would be for spring scrimmages.

Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said earlier this week the coaching staff was still discussing the all-SEC running back’s status. It is Bobby Petrino, of course, who gets the final say on Davis. And Petrino had yet to decide — or at least share that decision — when we last visited with him.

Petrino has three scrimmages scheduled for the spring. Arkansas goes today, April 6 and again April 13. Then there is the Red-White game April 21. And there’s always August.

Naturally, Davis is anxious for the opportunity to arrive. He’s willing to do whatever Petrino asks.

“I don’t know what coach is going to do. I haven’t asked, he hasn’t talked to me and I really don’t care," Davis said. "I’m just ready to go get the first lick. It’s football. I love contact. That’s what football is all about.”

Davis looks ready for contact. He says he’s ready for contact.

Whether Davis can handle it and if he should handle it at this point are two entirely different questions. Physically, Davis seems fine. Mentally, he says he’s ready to get back onto the field and take or deliver a blow.

From this seat — one I should note comes with the comfort of pretending to make decisions without actually making them — patience seems like the way to go with Davis. There really doesn’t seem to be a rush in getting back on the field and taking/delivering hits.

There will be plenty of time for Davis to knock the rust off before 2012.

Davis showed in the final half of 2010 that he’s capable of being a very productive back. He ran for 1,322 yards and much of that came from the midway point of the season though the Sugar Bowl.

None of the available backs have displayed Davis’ all-around abilities out of the backfield. Ronnie Wingo Jr. hasn’t shown the initial burst at the line of scrimmage or a desire to initiate contact the way Davis does. Dennis Johnson has speed and toughness, but has ball security issues. Kody Walker is still too young to make a good read on him, though his 2011 did get off to a promising start before injury sidelined him.

There is an argument to be made those guys need the work more than Davis at this point.

Petrino's decision surely comes down to this: Is it in the long-term best interest of the team and the player to have Davis scrimmage this spring?

Specifically, what options provide the best opportunity for having Davis ready — and healthy — for Alabama and LSU?

Davis will be critical to beating those teams. His absence last season wasn’t solely the reason for the 24-point losses to the Crimson Tide and Tigers, but with a healthy Davis the Razorbacks were much more competitive against those teams in 2010.

It is good Davis appears ready for contact now. But it’s Sept. 15 and Nov. 24 that matter the most. Arkansas has plenty of time before those games to get Davis ready.

Why rush it?



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