By Ron Jumper
Throughout his football career, dating back to high school, Knile Davis has had some bad luck when it comes to injuries, particularly his ankle. The injury bug has bitten Davis again, as he looks most likely to miss the 2011 season. Davis had been getting a lot of love from the media and many considered him the top running back in the SEC. Without question, head coach Bobby Petrino and the Arkansas Razorbacks lost a talented young man.
Now that the dust has settled, how will this impact the Razorbacks 2011 campaign?
Running back was a position that Hog fans worried very little about because, not only did they have Knile Davis but Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo have proven to be playmakers themselves. The concern was more along the offensive line, with left tackle being the most glaring weakness. Dennis Johnson has been a dynamic playmaker at different points in his career and Ronnie Wingo, a monster recruit coming out of Missouri, had a great spring that led to the coaches feeling he had finally reached his potential. Is Davis a stud? Obviously, but these two backs will be able to fill the void in terms of talent. More importantly, if the inexperienced line doesn’t create running lanes it really doesn’t matter who the running back is.
One thing to remember, back when Petrino was at Louisville he took them to the Orange Bowl despite losing highly touted running back Michael Bush to injury in the first game of the season. With the kind of talent and depth that Petrino has playing in his system, counting him out is simply a mistake.
Ronnie Wingo is the most likely to see the biggest increase in his workload, while also being likely to get the goalline carries that fantasy owners covet. At this point, Wingo is flying under the fantasy radar but he is a great value in what am I guessing will be the middle rounds of 120 drafts. Dennis Johnson will get touches but he doesn’t have the same upside as Wingo. If you don’t get the running back you want early in your draft, Wingo is a perfect low risk, high reward option.
The public sees this as a bigger detriment than it actually is, which could lead to better value for Hog backers. If the public perceives Arkansas as less talented, the spreads might be a little softer as opposed to being a public darling. The combination of breaking in a new QB and now losing Davis will scare away the average public bettor until the Hogs show they are still an elite team. Watch the lines closely, you might be able to get better value early in the season.