Senior defensive tackle Alfred Davis has been one of the key members of Arkansas' improved defense the past two games and now will face an improved Ole Miss team.
Arkansas defensive tackle Alfred Davis is one of the key members of an improved defensive front.
Davis has 22 tackles, including 11 solo, 1.5 tackles for loss, one quarterback hurry and one forced fumble in seven games. Davis and the rest of the Razorbacks are coming off a bye week which meant Sunday night's practice wasn't the normal just running to get the soreness out.
“It was great,” Davis said of Sunday night's extended practice. “It was a little different to come out on Sunday night and have practice, but I think the guys came out with a lot of excitement. It was good from period one to the end and I think that's a great start for the week. We don't have practice today so you get to rest a little bit.”
Davis said the younger guys have weight sessions on Monday, but the older players to get to get off their feet a little bit. After losing four games in a row, Arkansas has now beaten Auburn 24-7 and Kentucky 49-7. Davis said the two wins have helped make practice a lot better.
“That gets your juices flowing knowing you can be more confident now that you have some wins behind you,” Davis said. “I think the guys understand we are in a great position right now coming off two big wins in the SEC. I think it will carryover, we just have to take it one day at a time and one game at a time and keep playing good ball.”
Ole Miss ranks 26th in the nation in rushing offense and has already surpassed last season's total number of points, touchdowns and wins.
“That type of offense makes you disciplined,” Davis said. “You've got to stay in your gaps. If you have the quarterback you have the quarterback, if you have dive you have dive and if you are supposed to be in the B gap then you play the B gap. It's a very fast offense. If you don't get down and get lined up and get to your responsibilities they can hit you for a big play or catch you off guard. They're snapping the ball as fast as they possibly can.”
Arkansas has had a rash of injuries particularly on defense where both senior inside linebackers that started the season are now out for the year with injuries. Seniors Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius Wright both went down with injuries. One of their replacements is senior Terrell Williams at inside linebacker. Williams is currently fourth on the team in tackles with 37.
“I think T-Will is handling it well,” Davis said. “He has to work with some younger guys in the group. Coming from being behind Alonzo and Tank and now being the starting guy he is now the guy at the head of the pack. He has to lead by example and I think he has done a great job with that. He's playing very good football right now and we couldn't ask for a better person to step in and take those reins right now.”
One of the players that Davis has shared time with is senior Jared Green, a former walk-on from Little Rock Central and Mississippi Valley State, who was awarded a scholarship prior to the season. Green has played a key role for Arkansas, but don't count Davis among those surprised by that.
“To me, no, because I'm in the room with the guy,” Davis said when asked if he was surprised by Green's role. “I have been in a few spring balls with him. I always knew he was a good football player and he got his chance to play. He's playing good football and it's paying off for him.
He was excited about the game he had against Kentucky and me as a fellow D-tackle I was excited for him too. He got out and played a good football game and it doesn't surprise me one bit.”
Davis feels one reason Green and himself along with others have continued to improve is the fact they play in the SEC.
“Playing in the SEC makes you tough,” Davis said. “It's like playing in the playoffs every week. You have to take every football team serious from the team that has won the national championship what the past five or six years to the team at the bottom of the SEC. You never know what you're going to get week in and week out. Teams have their ups and downs. One week you play bad and the next week you look like the best team in the conference.”
Ole Miss (4-3, 1-2) is right on Arkansas' heels in the SEC and Davis knows to have any chance at a bowl game the Razorbacks need to beat Ole Miss in Little Rock on Saturday. Arkansas (3-4, 2-2) is tied with Texas A&M for fourth place in the SEC West.
“It's very important because you don't want to get on a roll to something good and then have a hiccup,” Davis said. “That's what has been good about this past week's practices. Usually during a bye week your guys come in and take a step back which we haven't. We had a great week of practice last week and Sunday's practice turned out to be one of the best practices of the week. I feel like we need to just keep moving forward, no steps back at all.”
For Davis and the Razorbacks, it's also important to get a win in Little Rock after losing the other game there this season. Louisiana-Monroe overcame a 28-7 second-half deficit to upset the Razorbacks 34-31 in overtime in the second week of the season.
“Just to be honest, I'm excited to go back to Little Rock,” Davis said. “You don't lose there for a very, very long time and then you hiccup and something like that happens.
“Now, I feel like we need to go back and redeem ourselves. Go back and defend the Rock like we always have in the past. Get our fans pumped about it and get ourselves pumped about it. That is our other home and you always want to win in your own backyard.”
Arkansas and Ole Miss will tee it up at 11:21, but Davis said that time is fine with him. The Hogs and Kentucky kicked off at 6 p.m.
“It's a little bit different,” Davis said of the early start. “You wake up a little earlier than normal and you have to get the juices flowing early and that could be hard for some people.
“Some people just aren't morning people, but we don't control things like that. We can only control what we can control. If they said we play a football game at 11:21 then we wake up at six, eat breakfast and have a walk through, a few meetings and then it's on the bus out to the stadium and get ready to play ball.”
Davis said he doesn't expect the rotations at defensive tackle to change any this week since Arkansas has played several other fast-tempo teams.
“It's hard to leave a guy out there five or six plays and expect them to a 100-percent,” Davis said. “That's why we get into that rotation like that and I don't expect it to change at all.”
5 notable John L. Smith quotes from Monday's press conference:
1] “We had a good week of practice and it was good for us to get some extra time.”
2] “Ole Miss is very good offensively and they're very athletic like every year. Guys that are very, very athletic who can run.”
3] “[Tight end Chris] Gragg is back and his knee has a tendency to get sore which it will, but you just have to work through that and he's doing fine. I expect him to do more and more each day. Ronnie's [Wingo] shoulder is fine. D.D. [Jones] is gradually getting better, the more rest he gets. He just needs a few more weeks to get his legs back under him. Injury wise, we're as healthy as we can be.”
4] “[Ronnie Wingo] will be used [at wide receiver] some, but we'll still use him at running back too.”
5] “Knile [Davis] goes to the practice field and had a good week of practice.”