In news that is completely terrible but also completely expected after reports of Knile Davis' horrific ankle injury emerged from practice last night, the team officially announced that the star RB is out for the entire 2011 season.
Here's Bobby Petrino's comment on the situation (as part of a prepared statement):
“I am extremely disappointed for Knile. He is a captain who was incredibly focused on the upcoming year. His leadership throughout the offseason was significant in the development of this team. Our athletic trainers and medical staff are the best in the country, and Knile’s mental toughness will be an asset to him during the recovery process. I am fully confident in the mindset of our running back group and their ability to perform.”
As I wrote yesterday, it's hard not to feel awful on a personal level for Davis after everything he's been through to achieve his success. As Matt Jones notes, he has a pretty significant injury history so everyone's first hope should be that he can battle back from this and regain his previous form for a long career. It sounds like if anyone can it'll be him, but it won't be easy.
Looking beyond that, what does this mean for the team? Obviously a team as top-to-bottom talented as this year's Hogs is bigger than any one player, but there's no question this changes the prognosis for the season. Before yesterday, the Razorbacks were being mentioned as legit national title contenders and looked to me like potentially the best Arkansas football team in my 30 years of fandom. I had us 2nd only to Alabama in the SEC and with a few good bounces in Tuscaloosa who knew?
The team is still good and will still win some games, but make no mistake - the possibility of this being a truly special season just went from pretty decent to quite small. I do expect the team to rally and continue to be very strong, but it's a new world of expectations and my guess is that we'll now have to "settle" for the type of season that we all would have been extremely happy about just a few years ago. So, that's not all bad but when your hopes are high it definitely hurts.
Some have pointed out that Petrino went 12-1 with Louisville the year Michael Bush got hurt early, and of course Ronnie Wingo and Dennis Johnson have great potential (remember, this time last year no one outside the Natural State knew who Davis was). But, the SEC West is a far cry from the Big East, and you don't just replace the conference's leading rusher, especially when you're breaking in a new QB and offensive line.
To sum up, the main thing now is to keep a good thought for Knile, but the reality is that the 2011 season suddenly has a very different feel than it did before. Misery loves company, so please share your own thoughts in the comments section.