Chris Gragg

Knile Davis responds to SN article on players quitting

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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.

Hogs’ third-leading receiver still suspended for violating team rules

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Whatever’s going on with Arkansas wide receiver Brandon Mitchell, the matter hasn’t been resolved to coach John L. Smith‘s satisfaction. Mitchell was suspended for last week’s game against Ole Miss for the ol’ violation of team rules. That suspension will not be lifted in time for this weekend’s game against Tulsa, Smith said Thursday.

“There comes a point where you get through Wednesday practice, and if you haven’t used him — and which we couldn’t plan on him being here, so, no, we don’t anticipate (him playing) at all,” Smith said via the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “He’s not game ready. Not game-planned, not a part of it.

“I don’t see a (timetable). Like everybody else I’m just knocking on wood, anxious.”

Mitchell is still the team’s third-leading receiver, but has just 11 receptions in the past seven games.

Arkansas will also be without tight end Chris Gragg and running back Knile Davis. Gragg has a knee injury and Davis has a hamstring problem.

Hogs expected to be without Davis, Gragg Saturday

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A pair of injuries will likely further deplete Arkansas heading into this weekend’s non-conference game against Tulsa.

Head coach (for now) John L. Smith confirmed Monday that running back Knile Davis and tight end Chris Gragg are expected to be sidelined Saturday due to injury.

Davis, who returned in 2012 after a devastating leg injury cut his 2011 season short, suffered a hamstring injury in the loss to the Rebels.  Gragg, meanwhile, aggravated a knee injury in the same game.

Gragg had just returned from that injury, which had cost him the previous three games.

Davis is currently second on the Razorbacks in rushing (340 yards), while Gragg is second in receptions (22) and receiving yards (289).

Arkansas to be down two more against Texas A&M

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Suddenly, Arkansas’ game against Texas A&M, which the Razorbacks have dominated in recent years, becomes crucial in preventing a four-game slide as the Hogs try to turn the season around.

To make matters worse, Arkansas will be without tight end Chris Gragg and safety Eric Bennett, per coach John L. Smith.

Gragg’s injury is a bone bruise he suffered last weekend against Rutgers and Bennett has been hampered with a hamstring injury. Gragg has been one of Tyler Wilson‘s favorite targets this season. He is second on the team with 19 receptions for 234 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Bennett ranks among the top 10 defenders with 19 tackles and two pass break-ups.

Arkansas needs all hands on deck at this point, and not just for availability, but for leadership as well.