BRYAN -- Bobby Petrino had built a borderline elite program at Arkansas, as the Hogs went 11-2 last season and beat Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl. But when Petrino was fired in April after the Jessica Dorrell motorcycle crash fiasco, the Razorbacks turned to assistant John L. Smith, who left his alma mater Weber State after just four months as head coach there to take over at Arkansas.
“I’m thinking I’m a very blessed individual and excited to be there and all of that,” said Smith. “I take a look at what we have and as I’m kind of away from it in spring ball I know we have a good football team.”
Smith will coach what could be a national championship contending team that returns nine starters on offense and six more on defense. Quarterback Tyler Wilson returns as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate to lead an offense that led the SEC a year ago in scoring offense and total offense.
Wilson said, “For me, I always I had confidence that I could go in and be a successful quarterback in this league. This year’s a little bit different because I’ve done it once.”
Running back Knile Davis added, “I know he’s a winner. He was a winner in high school. When I first seen him walk on to campus he was a little puny dude, fourth-string guy just like myself but I got a chance to see him grow and what he’s become is amazing.”
Davis returns at running back after missing all of 2011 with an ankle injury, he was a First-Team All-SEC selection in 2010 and has no doubt about who he feels is the best running back in the nation.
“Knile Davis. I just love the game and I work hard at it. I work hard at everything I do in becoming a good running back. I just feel like I have everything that a running back should have.”
Smith said, “He’s a premiere back in the league. He’s as good as there is in the country, so getting him back is crucial for us.”
The Razorbacks only two losses a year ago were on the road at LSU and Alabama. Arkansas gets both the Tigers and Tide in Fayetteville this season, and that’s a big reason why they think they can get over the hump and win the SEC West in 2012.
“We’ve made steady strides over the years,” said Davis. “This year we get both of those guys at home, which is a good thing. I do think, I think it’s time that we get out of the shadow of Alabama and LSU.”
Wilson added, “I’ve continually been asked ‘How do you leapfrog Alabama and LSU.’ Well, you’ve got to beat them, and I think our players understand that.”
The Hogs open the season at home September 1 against Jacksonville State, they’ll visit Kyle Field for the first time since 1991 on September 29.
Arkansas 2012 Football Schedule
Sat, Sep 1 Jacksonville State
Sat, Sep 8 Louisiana-Monroe
Sat, Sep 15 Alabama
Sat, Sep 22 Rutgers
Sat, Sep 29 at Texas A&M
Sat, Oct 6 at Auburn
Sat, Oct 13 Kentucky
Sat, Oct 27 Mississippi
Sat, Nov 3 Tulsa
Sat, Nov 10 at South Carolina
Sat, Nov 17 at Mississippi State
Fri, Nov 23 LSU