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.
Davis cleared to play
Running back Knile Davis (center), who has missed two games with a hamstring injury, has been cleared to play Saturday, Coach John L. Smith said.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas Coach John L. Smith said Thursday that tailback Knile Davis has been cleared to play Saturday against Mississippi State.
Davis, a junior, has not played since injuring his hamstring at the end of a 23-yard swing pass in the first half of Arkansas’ 30-27 loss to Ole Miss on Oct. 27.
“Knile practiced all week, did a lot better and will play, so that’s good,” Smith said.
Asked if Davis might be limited, Smith said he probably wouldn’t play if he was limited.
“He says he’s ready,” Smith added.
Linebacker Terrell Williams has not been removed from his indefinite suspension, Smith said, and is unlikely to accompany the Razorbacks to Mississippi.
Asked if Williams would have a chance to return for senior day next week against LSU in Fayetteville, Smith said, “There’s a chance. ... I would hope that his parents could come and experience senior day and all that, yes.”
John L. Smith didn’t want to be reminded his 64th birthday was Thursday.
“Did you have to bring that up?” the Arkansas coach asked a reporter. “It’s been a great day. Awesome. I try and forget those birthday deals, OK?”
True freshman D’Arthur Cowan has worked as the deep man on kickoffs this week and might supplant senior tailback Dennis Johnson in that role Saturday.
“It’ll be he or Dennis,” Coach John L. Smith said.
“But he’s been the most impressive on kickoff this week. ... I really like his explosion. He’s a guy that as a freshman has been in games. He’s taken some hits.
He’s secured the ball.”
Smith said he has settled on senior Kaelon Kelleybrew as the top punt returner this week.
Arkansas has rushed for 1,195 yards this season, while its defense has held opponents to 1,197 rushing yards. The Razorbacks average 3.9 yards per carry and their opponents average 3.3 yards per carry.
Mississippi State has run 330 times and passed on 322 plays this season.
Only three Arkansas defenders - Ross Rasner, who plays the star position, and ends Trey Flowers and Chris Smith - have started all 10 games this season, while tackle Byran Jones and safety Rohan Gaines have made eight starts.
On offense, linemen Alvin Bailey, Travis Swanson and David Hurd and receiver Cobi Hamilton have made all 10 starts, while quarterback Tyler Wilson and guard Tyler Deacon have made nine starts apiece.
Coach John L. Smith explained his policy about true freshmen being off limits to media interviews Thursday.
“Freshmen shouldn’t be interviewing,” he said.
“That’s kind of been ... a policy that we have had for years. I’ve just never been a big believer in it, and they should concentrate on the game. It’s too big for them right now.”
Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin keeps redshirt freshmen off limits for interviews, which has been the case this season with Heisman Trophy candidate Johnny Manziel, the Aggies’ quarterback.
Coin flip fare
Arkansas opponents have won six of 10 coin flips this season, and all but Kentucky deferred their choice to the second half. The Razorbacks won the toss against Jacksonville State, Texas A&M, Tulsa and South Carolina and accepted the opening kickoff in all but the road game at Texas A&M.
The Razorbacks have received the opening kickoff in eight games and have just one touchdown (Tulsa) and two field goals (Rutgers, Ole Miss) as opening scoring drives in those games. Texas A&M scored a touchdown and Kentucky punted after receiving the opening kicks against the Razorbacks.
On Arkansas’ opening drives overall, the Hogs have two touchdowns (Kentucky, Tulsa), two field goals (Rutgers, Ole Miss), three punts (Alabama, Texas A&M, South Carolina), a missed field goal (Auburn), a fumble (Jacksonville State) and an interception (Louisiana-Monroe).
Arkansas opponents have three touchdowns (Louisiana-Monroe, Texas A&M, South Carolina), five punts (Alabama, Rutgers, Auburn, Kentucky, Ole Miss) and two missed field goals (Jacksonville State, Tulsa) on opening drives. The missed field goal in the opener against Jacksonville State was blocked by Byran Jones.
Arkansas has no touchdown drives of 39 yards or less, with its shortest being a 40-yard drive at Auburn that culminated in Dennis Johnson’s 2-yard scoring run.
The Razorbacks have 32 touchdown drives and half of them have covered a distance of between 71 and 80 yards, an indicator of a lack of big plays coming on defense and special teams.
Drive distances of between 51 and 60 yards and 61 to 70 yards have accounted for four touchdowns each, the next highest figure behind the 16 drives of 71 to 80 yards.
Sports, Pages 22 on 11/16/2012