It's officially that time of year again. How sweet it is to find ourselves here on the eve of kickoff. For us Hog fans, this has got to be one of the most highly anticipated seasons in recent memory, and the anxiety is sure to rise to its boiling point by the time kickoff rolls around tomorrow at 6:00 central time. With a tumultuous offseason in the rear view, we can finally set our sites on the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State.
Many a storyline await to be played out this season, but a journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. It's time to finally see the 2012 edition of the Arkansas football team in action, and without Bobby Petrino. However, possibly just as important, it's a team led by Tyler Wilson WITH Knile Davis. The only time we've seen these guys play together was at Auburn in 2010 when Ryan Mallett left the game after a hit by former Auburn DT Nick Fairley. Through all the drama and questions heading into the season, the return of Knile Davis is sparking the most excitement.
It's been over a year since we last saw our All-SEC tailback. Davis quietly rushed for 139 yards against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl in January of 2011. Tomorrow, he will make his return and take the first step on the road to what many believe (including Davis himself) a very special special year. When Davis scores his first touchdown since his injury, whether some spectacular long run, or merely punching it in on the goal line, it's going to be a magical moment. A moment shared by Davis with his teammates, coaches, and all Arkansas fans who witness it whether live in Fayetteville, or at home on the couch.
Marcus Lattimore, Davis' primary nemesis in the battle for the country's best back, made his return from a season ending knee injury Thursday night against Vanderbilt. The ball is in Davis' court now, after Lattimore rushed for 110 yards and two scores. Although Davis will be playing a much weaker defense than Vandy (JSU gave up 300 plus rushing yards to Kentucky last year) the two tailbacks will undoubtedly look to outdo each other week in and week out. Davis issued a challenge to Lattimore when he told him at SEC Media Days that he'd better be back, because he is. As long as Knile doesn't fumble on his first play back, I think he wins round one handily. JSU returns a defense that allowed 166.9 rushing ypg last year, they ranked 72nd in the nation. In 2010 Knile rushed for 102.5 ypg against SEC defenses, after only totalling 20 carries in the first 5 games. Look for Davis to have a huge game in his return to the field.
Tyler Wilson has told us to expect a "statement game". The way this team has come together since Petrino's firing has been monumental, and it will show as they progress this year. The show I suspect Davis will put on Saturday in his return will be an excellent start to this highly anticipated season. John L. Smith has no intentios of limiting his carries and he is 100% ready to go. Knile is determined to do some great things this year. Razorback fans believe he is the best back in the SEC and so does he. He's got the talent, we've all seen his capabilities, he's got the confidence, and barring any setbacks, he'll have the hardware. But it all starts tomorrow, so get your Razorback Pop Tarts ready.