FOUR DOWNS – ARKANSAS VS. JACKSONVILLE STATE NOTES
1. Knile Still Knile
Arkansas running back Knile Davis earned his first live work during the mock game last Friday. Three days later, Arkansas coach John L. Smith and quarterback Tyler Wilson provided a few more details about his performance in live tackling work.
“He looked real good,” Smith said during Monday’s press conference. “He looked like Knile. The first time they tackled him all the way to the ground he coughed the ball up, but the ground caused the fumble, so it would not have been a fumble.”
Smith did not reveal the number of carries Davis received during the scrimmage work, but joked Arkansas “went until we were tired of it, which was two.”
But Smith believes the work, no matter how many attempts it included, was important for Davis as he prepares for his first game since the 2010 Sugar Bowl. The running back missed the 2011 season after suffering a fractured ankle in practice.
“He’s excited and I think it was good for him without a doubt to take some hits and feel good about himself,” Smith said. “Get back up, take a few more.”
The running back had participated in practices throughout the preseason, but was held out of scrimmages and other contact work. So Wilson said Davis had a “really focused” look on his face before getting his first carry during the mock game.
The end result, Wilson said, was good for Davis and the Razorbacks.
“I don’t run the ball as much as Knile so I don’t know how to vocalize it,” Wilson said. “But Knile, I think, ran the ball very well and it will run it better and better each game that he’s out there.”
Defensive end Chris Smith offered another assessment of Davis’ scrimmage debut.
“Everybody was wondering how he was going to do,” Smith said. “Knile is still Knile from what I saw Friday night. … I know he’s going to put on a show Saturday.”
2. Suspensions For Opener
Smith was asked Monday if anyone would be suspended for the season opener.
After hesitating, Smith indicated there could be players out. But he declined to specify which ones would be sidelined against Jacksonville State.
“There possibly is some people that are righting some wrongs,” Smith said. “And, this is a perfect time to get them … We want the ship sailing right. If you have a, what do you call it, penance to serve, you’ll get that done this week.”
One likely candidate is offensive tackle Jason Peacock, who was arrested in the offseason. The 2011 starter was permitted to return to the team, but spent much of the preseason working with the second-team offensive line.
3. Feeling Fortunate
Linebacker Tenarius Wright did not take part in any contact work during the mock game, but Smith said he’d be ready to play in the opener. So, too, will linebacker Alonzo Highsmith and safety Eric Bennett. All three missed time during camp.
But Smith said the Razorbacks feel fortunate as they enter the season opener because there haven’t been significant injuries to key players this month.
“We’re healthy,” Smith said. “We’re ready.”
It’s a welcome change from 2011, when Arkansas’ offensive plans changed after Davis went down with the fractured ankle during the first preseason scrimmage.
4. Near-Perfect Performance
The mock game was closed to the public, but Wilson said it was a strong performance for the passing offense. In fact, he said there weren’t many balls that hit the ground in Razorback Stadium.
“There were two incompletions through the entire night,” Wilson said. “I had one and Brandon Allen had one. I thought we did a lot of things very well.”
Wilson said he was curious how it compared to last year’s mock game, when the quarterback was preparing for his first season as the starter. He was impressed.
“I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw,” Wilson said. “I’m excited about that.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau