Ronnie Wingo is one of the many offensive weapons that Petrino will need to replace Davis
Knile Davis Out. Are the Hogs out of the SEC Race?
Early last night in a scrimmage in Fayetteville, Arkansas the biggest offseason injury of the year in the SEC occurred. Razorback running back Knile Davis injured his left leg and is apparently out for the year. Davis, who led SEC running backs with 1,322 yards a year ago, was being mentioned by many as being a Heisman Candidate in 2011. How does this hurt the Hogs? Do we erase them from SEC contention in 2011?
Bobby Petrino has been in this situation before. Heading into the 2006 season the key to the Louisville Cardinals offense was big 6'1 245 pound RB Michael Bush(now with the Raiders). The season prior Bush had rushed for 1,100 yards and scored 23 TDs and entered 2006 as a likely top 10 NFL draft pick. On his first carry of the 2006 season Bush ran 48 yards. Bush had 128 yards rushing against Kentucky in game 1, but on a routine tackle he was lost for the year with a broken right tibia. It appeared as if the Cardinals season might end up a bust.
Petrino and the Cardinals didn't panic. The combination of Kolby Smith, George Stripling, and Anthony Allen combined for over 1,700 yards and 25 touchdowns. Louisville ended the year 12-1 with the school's only BCS Bowl win in the 2007 Orange Bowl. The offense didn't miss a beat as Petrino's final Louisville team averaged 38 points per game.
In 2008 Petrino's first Arkansas team relied heavily on running back Michael Smith. Smith, a backup to Darren McFadden and Felix Jones most of his career, had over 1,000 yards rushing in 2010. Bothered by a hamstring against LSU in 2008, freshman Dennis Johnson took the place of Smith. Johnson ended up rushing for over 100 yards to help lead the Hogs to an upset victory over LSU. Smith again spent most of the 2009 season at less than 100%, but the offense was able to still average 36 points per game.
Last season Arkansas' top wide receiver Greg Childs went down with a season ending injury against Vanderbilt during the 8th game of the year. Childs was leading the Hogs with 48 receptions for 897 yards prior to the injury. Once again Petrino's offense didn't miss a beat. Arkansas went on to score 49 against Vandy, 41 at South Carolina, 58 against UTEP, 38 at Mississippi State, 31 against LSU, and 26 in the Sugar Bowl vs Ohio State. Without Childs the Hogs finished the year 5-1 with the only loss now being vacated by Ohio State.
Fact is that Petrino's offense doesn't rely on one player. His offense is one that is focused on matchups against the defense and utilizes a variety of skill position players. This year's version of the Hog offense also brings in a new feature as QB Tyler Wilson has more speed than Ryan Mallett and Casey Dick. Dennis Johnson has proven that he can have big games against big teams. Johnson has had 100 yard rushing games against both LSU and Florida in his Arkansas career. The other RB, Ronnie Wingo, has the best hands at the RB position on the team. Last year Wingo had 27 receptions and totaled over 500 yards(rushing and receiving) on the season. In high school Wingo was a 4 star player and ranked as the #9 running back in the country by Rivals, many have stated he has the biggest upside on the Arkansas roster.
Losing a player the caliber of Knile Davis can hurt a team mentally, but this shouldn't be considered a season killer for the Hogs. Any intelligent college football observer will tell you that you never count out a Bobby Petrino offense. Combine the killer offense with the best defense Petrino has had and you still have a SEC Championship contender.