It’s become routine for Arkansas safety/linebacker Jerico Nelson to walk into the film room these last few months and find Knile Davis sitting there.
Davis, who had a breakout season a year ago for the Hogs with 1,322 rushing yards, isn’t leaving anything to chance as he points toward his junior season.
He flew in under the radar last season. Nobody really knew who he was, including opposing SEC defensive coordinators.
They know now.
“You can’t rest on your laurels,” Davis said. “Everybody else is working to get that edge. What are you going to do to get that edge?”
In addition to bulking up to 230 pounds and getting a lot stronger, Davis has done his best to become more of a student of the game.
“The thing about Knile is that he’s already a great back, but he’s working to get even better,” Nelson said. “Every time I go in to watch extra film, he’s there. He knows people are going to be gunning for him next season.”
Davis doesn’t just watch SEC defenses, either. He watches other running backs and feels like he’s picked up several things that will help his game.
Obviously, all of those guys have different styles and different strengths. What’s important to Davis is becoming a complete running back.
“I take a lot of pride in being a running back that can do whatever you need him to do,” said Davis, who also caught 19 passes last season, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime against Mississippi State.
“I was never a guy who could play two positions. I couldn’t play defense. I didn’t return punts. I just loved the running back position and felt like I needed to be good in every aspect of it, whether it’s short yardage, breaking a long one down the sideline, catching, blocking, everything.”
Davis, who’s the first to admit that he still needs to work on his blocking, was just about all of those things for the Hogs last season even though he really wasn’t turned loose until a month had gone by in the season.
Everybody in the state of Arkansas, including coach Bobby Petrino, still wonders what would have happened in that Alabama game had Davis been the force he was during the second half of the season.
No longer were the Hogs an offense that had to beat teams strictly through the air. With Davis’ emergence, they were also able to grind it out on the ground, and even more importantly, protect leads.
Once he got going, Davis was incredibly consistent.
He led all SEC running backs in rushing, racking up six 100-yard rushing games. His 6.48 yards-per-carry rushing average was the highest in the NCAA among running backs that carried the ball at least 200 times.
“I think there’s still more out there … for the whole team and not just me,” Davis said.
So does Petrino, who’s been particularly impressed with how Davis has handled success.
“What I like so much is that he wants to take over the leadership role,” Petrino said. “When we tested in the weight room, he was there for every group. Two groups ahead of him, he was there helping out. And then two groups after he went, he was still there. He stayed the entire time.
“That means a lot to me. That shows he’s ready. He cares, and he knows he needs everybody around him.”