Razorback tailback Knile Davis is the top returning rusher in the Southeastern Conference, but he has bigger goals for himself and his team in 2011.
Davis rushed for 1,322 and 13 touchdowns last season, despite not becoming the featured back until the seventh game of the season. Davis ultimately cares about winning over numbers, although his are very impressive. He is a 6-0, 230-pounder who clocked a 4.29-second 40-yard dash (in ideal conditions on a track) in spring testing. On Monday, he rang the bell in the weight room with a 430-pound bench press max.
"My main expectation is to try to get my team wins. I've definitely stepped up to being a vocal leader. I think guys really respect me not only because I'm a vocal leader but because of the way I work."
Davis still has room for improvement. Playing behind an offensive line that will replace two tackles who were three-year starters will be difficult. There are talented players from which to choose, but aside from senior Grant Freeman it is a young and inexperienced bunch.
"Not only does the blocking have to be good, but my reads coming out of the backfield have to be better than it was last year," Davis said. "The offensive line is going to play a real big part in our success this year, whether it's run-blocking or pass-blocking.
"The main thing is pass-blocking. Being that every down back, you need to be able to pass-block. That's key, not only to being a good running back, but to winning games. That's my main area."
There is a common theme in tennis that one will never get better than their opponents, but it is wise to practice against a wall because that is one opponent they will never beat. At times, the offense may have felt like they were facing a wall this spring. The Razorback defense, at its strongest up front, should be as good as ever under head coach Bobby Petrino.
"They make it hard for me at practice. This spring, they shut us down. We had a hard time against those guys. They're not going to do anything but make us better. They're a good bunch, from the D-line to the secondary."
Davis believes it is a good situation for the new quarterback with four premium wide receivers, a strong interior line and a trio of talented running backs, whether it's junior Tyler Wilson or sophomore Brandon Mitchell.
"It's going good. Tyler Wilson, Brandon Mitchell, they're both doing very good this summer in our workouts, and both of them are ready to go into camp and compete for the job.
"I don't think there's more pressure. I actually think there was more pressure on [Ryan] Mallett last year than there is on Wilson, mainly because we've got a lot of weapons coming back on the offensive side of the ball."
When asked if he felt slighted by being voted second-team All-SEC this pre-season after earning a first-team spot last season, Davis suggested that he was worried only about what he and his team can control.
"I have no idea, and I don't have any control over that," Davis said. "All I can try to do is do better this year, and hopefully I can get first this year.
"Get stronger and faster, work harder, stay humble. I just work harder, try to guide the young guys, the new recruits. Try to bring them along so they can help us this year."