Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
UA’s Davis to skip senior year
NWA Media/JASON IVESTER -- Arkansas running back Knile Davis breaks free down the Texas A&M sideline en route to a 64-yard touchdown reception on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas running back Knile Davis has decided to forego his senior season and declare for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Davis, 21, was expected to skip his senior year prior to the 2012 season, but after a disappointing fall in which he rushed 112 times for just 377 yards, there was speculation he might return for a final year.
That won’t be the case, though, because Davis has secured representation from Mac Management Group, which is based in Fayetteville and run by former Arkansas track and field All-American and Olympic gold medalist Mike Conley.
Davis had a breakout season in 2010, but he also dealt with a series of injuries during his time at Arkansas and endured a rough final season. Still, he said Wednesday in a statement released by MMG that he had experienced more ups than downs with the Razorbacks.
“Over the last few weeks, I’ve been very reflective in weighing my options,” the statement read. “However, after careful counsel with my family and support system, I’ve made the decision to forego my final year of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft.
“I sincerely look forward to working towards realizing my ultimate goal of becoming an NFL running back of the highest caliber.”
Davis, from Missouri City, Texas, is expected to begin training next week at the Michael Johnson Performance center in McKinney, Texas, according to College Football News. He is on schedule to graduate in May.
Davis burst onto the college scene in the second half of the 2010 season, rushing for 846 yards and 12 touchdowns in the final 7 games to push his total to 1,322 yards for the season, best among SEC running backs. The single-season total ranks fourth in the Arkansas record books.
He earned All-SEC honors while helping lead the Razorbacks to their first Bowl Championship Series appearance in the Sugar Bowl and was preseason All-SEC in 2011 before a broken left ankle sustained in fall camp knocked him out for the year.
Davis and quarterback Tyler Wilson held a joint news conference in January to announce they were returning to school for the 2012 season. But Davis wasn’t able to recapture his form from two years earlier, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and scoring three touchdowns.
“I would like to thank my team for going through the grit and grind with me over the past four years,” Davis said in the statement. “I also want to thank my position coach, Tim Horton, offensive coordinators Paul Petrino, Garrick McGee, and head coaches John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino for their guidance and support.
“What I will remember most over the past four years has been the patience, support and overall concern the Razorback Nation has shown me and my family after each setback. I will forever be a Razorback and will strive to make them proud on the next level.”
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on a recent teleconference that turning pro or returning to school would be a difficult choice for Davis.
“It’s a hard call because when he had those injuries, multiple injuries, you say, ‘OK, just let me come into the NFL. I don’t care where I go, I know I have NFL ability. Let me just get a chance to compete.’
“If that’s his attitude, then he moves on. If his attitude is, ‘I want to be an early round pick and maximize my rating,’ then you go back.”
Davis will depart along with senior tailbacks Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo Jr., leaving Jonathan Williams as the runner with the most experience on the Arkansas roster.
Williams rushed for 231 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry as a true freshman as part of a running back class that included Nate Holmes and Donovan Roberts.
The Razorbacks also will get back injured fullback Kiero Small, whose absence Arkansas coaches pointed to as one of the reasons the running game struggled this season, as well as Kody Walker. Small played in just one game before breaking a bone in his foot, and Walker broke his leg in the second game.
Several Arkansas juniors are expected to submit paperwork with the NFL draft advisory board to assess their draft potential.
Sports, Pages 19 on 12/13/2012