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Knile Davis answers the call for Hogs

Knile Davis hasn’t always been a patient runner.

When he arrived at Arkansas, his idea of patience was trying to beat everybody to the sideline.

“That’s the way it was in high school,” Davis said. “I didn’t read holes and didn’t read defenses. I just got the ball and went. I was playing sandlot football.”

Needless to say, Davis is a changed man, and the Hogs’ offense has prospered as a result.

He thinks his patience as a runner is now one of his greatest attributes.

“You can’t see the holes and can’t see the cuts when you’re trying to go too fast and are out of control,” Davis said. “It’s definitely not a jog, but it’s a controlled speed.”

The 6-foot, 220-pound sophomore has been a perfect complement to Arkansas’ explosive passing game this season. Not only has he added some real pop to the Hogs’ running game, but he’s made the Hogs more difficult to defend overall.

It’s the part of the game Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino felt like the Hogs were missing on offense earlier this season and for parts of last season.

“He’s helped us get the big plays, get the chunk yards rushing the ball, which you need to be able to get,” Petrino said. “He’s also helped our third-down conversions a lot. We’re now into more third-and-shorts and third-and-mediums, and we have more balance in those situations. You feel confident in calling runs in that situation, and that’s really helped our third-down efficiency.”

Davis’ emergence has made him one of the premier step-up players in the SEC this season. The Hogs were looking for a go-to guy in the running game, and he’s delivered.

Closing in on 1,000 yards, Davis has rushed for more than 100 yards in three of his last four games while rolling up 844 yards for the season. He has nine rushing touchdowns in his last four games, and he’s also averaging 7.2 yards per carry, which is tops among the league leaders.

Not bad for a guy who couldn’t seem to overcome injuries at one point in his career.

He broke his collarbone his junior year of high school and then broke his ankle as a senior. Soon after arriving at Arkansas, he broke that same ankle. And then this past spring, he broke his collarbone again.

“For a while there, I was second-guessing football,” said Davis, who rushed for a career-high 182 yards last week against UTEP. “It was like, ‘What’s going on? I can’t stay healthy.’ But I wasn’t going to give up. It’s been rough, but I’d come too far.”

Upon getting healthy, Davis next turned his attention to separating himself from the rest of the pack in a crowded Arkansas running back stable. Dennis Johnson’s season-ending injury in the second game left a big void, and Davis was determined to prove that he had what it took to be a marquee back in this league.

When his time came, he didn’t flinch.

“We had a lot of backs, and I had to wait my turn,” Davis said. “I wasn’t ready to take over last year. I was able to learn a lot from Mike Smith and put it all together for this year.

“Now I’m ready to be a leader, step up and be that guy who can take over.