FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas running back Dennis Johnson was ecstatic to be wearing full pads Friday…
Davis Takes Early College Route
But in another regard, Davis is different. Instead of enjoying the last few months of his senior year before going off to college, the running back is on Arkansas' campus getting a jumpstart on his academic and athletic career.
"The overwhelming thing is just the speed," Davis said after his second practice with the Razorbacks on Wednesday. "Not just football, it's everything. Class. It's a different world, but I'm getting used it. I'm doing the best I can."
Davis will get a chance to show how much he has learned — on the football field — when Arkansas holds its first scrimmage of the spring this morning.
The Missouri City, Texas, native, who is still just 17, has been soaking in coach Bobby Petrino's offense after graduating from high school a semester early and enrolling at Arkansas. He's part of a loaded backfield that also includes Dennis Johnson, De'Anthony Curtis, Brandon Barnett and former Southern Cal back Broderick Green, but Davis hasn't shied away from the competition.
It comes as no surprise to his high school coach.
"Knile is the kind of guy, if he is not in the mix for playing time coming out of the spring I will be amazed," Ft. Bend Marshall High coach Darryl Phipps said last month.
Phipps was adamant that Arkansas got "a real steal" in Davis, who had his junior and senior seasons interrupted by injuries.
Davis, who is 6-foot and weighs 213 pounds, only played in one game as a senior because of a broken ankle but still made an impression. He was listed as a four-star prospect by Scout.com and was courted heavily by several schools.
Davis chose the Razorbacks and did something that surprised Phipps. Because he couldn't play the rest of his senior season because of the ankle injury, he started concentrating on something else: Graduating early to enroll in January.
"He's always thinking ahead, which is unusual for a high school kid,' Phipps said. "He said, ‘What do you think about me going to night school and graduating early? That way I can go and start school. I can finish my rehab with the coaches I'm going to be with the next four or five years and be ready for spring.' I said, ‘You know what Knile, that's a heck of an idea.'"
Davis said it wasn't a plan he had mapped out throughout his high school career. But once he realized he was close to graduating, Davis took the courses he needed to get an early start at Arkansas. He's confident it was the right choice even though he is missing his final few months of high school.
"It's a great head start on class," Davis said. "I really feel that I'm doing the right thing and I'm having fun doing it."
It's a decision he's hoping will pay off next fall, too.
Davis is auditioning for playing time at a loaded position that will add even more depth when Ronnie Wingo arrives this summer. Petrino already has complimented Davis for his pass-catching ability out of the backfield, where he has lined up at both tailback and fullback through three practices.
Davis, who said his healing ankle is "90 percent," has proven he can compete with returning players in the weight room, too. The staff started Davis slow when he arrived, but it didn't take long before he impressed everyone with work.
"Unbelievable what he did," Petrino said. "I mean, he tested off the charts. His speed and his strength is a great combination. So he excites you."
Davis knows he has a long way to go, though. It didn't take long for him to notice the difference between high school and college both on and off the field. But Davis said he's enjoying the challenge of being on a college campus this spring.
He's not completely done with high school, though. There is still one thing he has left after spring practice ends.
"I'm still going to prom," Davis said. "It's on May 23."
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