December 13, 2012
By KURT VOIGT Associated Press
Knile Davis never quite looked like his old self this season at Arkansas.
The running back's next chance to show he is fully recovered from a devastating ankle injury will come in the NFL.
Davis announced his decision to skip his senior year with the Razorbacks on Tuesday, bringing a close to a career that was equal parts productive and injury-marred.
He led all Southeastern Conference running backs in rushing in 2010 with 1,322 yards. He averaged 147 yards rushing over his final seven games that season, capping off the breakout performance with a 139-yard rushing effort in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State.
However, he missed the 2011 season while recovering from a broken left ankle. Davis returned this past season and said he was 100 percent healthy, though he gained only 377 yards rushing - averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
''Over the last few weeks, I've been very reflective in weighing my options,'' Davis said in a statement. ''However, after careful counsel with my family and support system, I've made the decision to forego my final year of eligibility and enter the 2013 NFL draft. I sincerely look forward to working towards realizing my ultimate goal of becoming an NFL running back of the highest caliber.''
Davis has also broken his right ankle twice and his collarbone twice in his career, dating to high school in Texas. None of the previous injuries, however, hurt as badly or required as difficult a rehab as the broken left ankle he suffered during a preseason scrimmage before the 2011 season.
Despite the grueling recovery, Davis appeared in the best shape of his career entering this season. He set a personal best with a 570-pound squat in March, and the 6-foot-2, 226-pound running back said he was fully recovered and ready for full contact when Arkansas opened fall practice.
Still, interim Arkansas coach John L. Smith kept Davis out of full-contact drills for most of August, only relenting and allowing the eager running back to take part during the team's final preseason scrimmage.
Davis' season started with an 18-carry, 70-yard effort in a win over Jacksonville State, but he showed little of the big-play ability that marked his 2010 season. His longest run was a 28-yard gain in a 58-10 loss to Texas A&M, and he dropped behind Dennis Johnson on the depth chart as the season wore on.
His final game came in a 20-13 loss to LSU, a defeat that ended a disappointing season for Arkansas (4-8, 2-6 SEC). Davis had 31 yards in seven carries in the loss, and he added 52 yards receiving on five catches.
New coach Bret Bielema said last week he would meet with Davis and the other possible returners for the Razorbacks to tell them about his plan for the team after leaving Wisconsin after seven seasons.
Whatever Bielema had to say wasn't enough to keep Davis, who watched last season as former teammate wide receiver Greg Childs left after an injury-plagued junior season and was drafted in the fourth round by the Minnesota Vikings.
Davis thanked his coaches at Arkansas, including former coach Bobby Petrino.
''What I will remember most over the past four years has been the patience, support, and overall concern the Razorback Nation has shown me and my family after each setback,'' Davis said. ''I will forever be a Razorback and will strive to make them proud on the next level.''