Three former Arkansas coaches – interim coach John L. Smith, defensive coordinator Paul Haynes and offensive coordinator Paul Petrino – told the Sporting News recently that they felt some Arkansas players quit on the team during 2012’s disastrous 4-8 season. The comments mirrored what Hogs quarterback Tyler Wilson said about his team early in the season following a 52-0 loss to Alabama, in which Wilson did not play because of a concussion.
No one from Arkansas — players nor athletic director Jeff Long — commented for the story. But one former player, running back Knile Davis, has now responded to it via his Twitter account.
Here’s what Davis had to say (via ArkansasNews.com):
“The same guys who sacrificed their time and freedom. The same guys who gave their blood sweat and tears for that hog on the side of that helmet. The same guys who skipped an opportunity of a life time by not entering the draft and came back knowing the risk. The same guys that battled to get a win in the liberty bowl in the freezing cold. The same guys that battled to get the schools first BCS birth in the Sugar Bowl. The same guys that fought and won the Cotton Bowl. These same guys quit on one of the most anticipated seasons in Arkansas history?! I don’t think so. Not these guys. Not my guys. #HAWG 4 LIFE”
The SN piece did not name specific players who “quit.” Also, it would be incorrect to assume all players did (not that the ex-coaches are assuming that). And there were injuries. Lots of ‘em. Davis missed a couple of games with a hamstring injury; tight end Chris Gragg missed more than half the year with a leg injury; and linebackers Tenarius Wright and Alonzo Highsmith had season-ending injuries.
This has amounted to a he said/he said story. Did Arkansas look defeated this past season? At times, absolutely. Was that the only issue Arkansas had in 2012? No way. The 10-month contract for Smith turned out to be a disaster, and Smith was never the guy the Razorbacks needed to maintain the success built by Bobby Petrino.
Say what you will about Petrino — I have numerous times — but one thing he does successfully is get his players to perform with an edge. An edge based on fear. That edge was noticeably absent last season.
So, too, was good coaching. That deserves blame as well. The Razorbacks’ pass defense was among the worst in college football and opposing teams were scoring an average of 30 points a game. And if we’re on the topic of quitting, Smith looked like he had mailed it in a season-ending loss to LSU.
The former coaches claiming certain players quit on the team only scratches the surface of what went wrong for Arkansas in 2012, even though it scratches the right spot. That scratch has removed the scab from the wound of what could have been for the Razorbacks.