Posted 1/17/2011 12:01 am
As soon as the college football season ends the immediate thing every fan does is look at the roster coming back for spring practice and think about what might be next season. The national media knows this and subsequently comes out with rendition after rendition of the “way too early” preseason 25 ranking.
Conspicuously absent from the majority of these assessments of Arkansas football, which is ranked in every single one somewhere between fifth and 20th, is any mention of running back Knile Davis.
Davis is arguably Arkansas best returning player next season. Yet, not only is there no chatter of Heisman hype, no talk of how he would fit in on an NFL roster, or how he compares to many of the nation’s other great running backs, he isn’t even mentioned as an integral piece of Arkansas offense coming back.
Most people still think South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore was the SEC’s best running back last season. And when speculating on next season, most dismiss Knile Davis as still a significant downgrade from Michael Dyer, Trent Richardson and Stevan Ridley, not to mention Lattimore.
Davis, who had the fourth best single season rushing yards total in Arkansas football history led all SEC running backs with 1322 yards and 13 touchdowns. Usually when you lead all players at your position in the nation’s toughest conference it gets noticed. After reading most national expert’s assessment of how good Arkansas will be next season I’m starting to wonder if they even know Davis exists.
There aren’t really many argument’s to be made to support any other running back but Lattimore in the conversation. That’s how much better Davis was last season than his counterparts around the conference. Don’t believe me? Even when you include Davis’ first four games of the season only carrying the ball 20 times, he is still 18th nationally with a 101.69 yards per game average, which is better than every running back in the SEC. The closest running back is Lattimore who is 31st nationally and a full 10 yards behind Davis.
The only player in the SEC who had a higher yards per game average was Cam Newton with 105.21, who started all 14 of Auburn’s games this season.
When you compare games started and not games played, at 133.44 Davis averages a full 29 yards more than Newton did per game and nearly 41 yards more than Lattimore. In nine games as a starter this past season, Davis accumulated 1,201 yards. In fact, when comparing yards per game average in games started Knile Davis was not only the best running back in the SEC, he was the fourth best running back in the nation. The best back was Oregon’s LaMichael James, who averaged 144.25 yards per game started.
Not only was Davis superior in terms of efficiency on a game by game basis, he was also the most efficient back on a carry by carry basis as well. Davis ranked second nationally in yards per carry average among players with at least 20 carries. Only Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was better, and only by one tenth of one yard.
Pound for pound, yard for yard, carry for carry, Knile Davis is the best back in the nation next season not named LaMichael James.
The only reason I can reasonably speculate as to why he hasn’t been given due credit for his accomplishments and ability is his lack of starts through the first four games of the season. Not a lot of face time in big moments early killed the Davis’ momentum and recognition early. Not to mention being in the large shadow quarterback Ryan Mallett cast over the backfield. It’s either that or people just have a vendetta against Arkansas and it’s football program.
Either way, Arkansas fans might like it this way. Now they have their own secret weapon. Next season, when Knile Davis and Arkansas run the ball down the throats of SEC defenses, they’ll never see it coming.
TJ Carpenter is host of The TJ Carpenter Show on ESPN 92.1 The Ticket in Northwest Arkansas, every weekday from 3 to 6 pm. www.tjcarpentershow.com www.twitter.com/tjcarpentershow