Tag:Dennis Johnson
Posted on: January 10, 2012 3:28 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 3:29 pm
 

Injured RB Knile Davis returning for Arkansas

Posted by Chip Patterson

Arkansas running back Knile Davis was eligible to declare for the 2012 NFL Draft, but after suffering a season-ending ankle injury on Aug. 11 has decided to return to school and plans on finishing his Razorback career on the field.

“I have made the decision to return to the University of Arkansas for the 2012 season as I am determined to help this program accomplish the goals we have set in place," Davis said in a prepared statement released by the school. "My injury was unfortunate, but I feel I have worked extremely hard for the opportunity to lead the Razorbacks on the field. Through my setback last season, I remained positive and was committed to persevering and I plan to apply those principles to this year’s team."

Razorback fans found themselves saying "what if" throughout the 2011 season as Arkansas climbed as high as No. 3 in the BCS standings without the All-SEC running back. Davis led the SEC in rushing in 2010 with 1,322 yards, the fourth-highest single-season total in Arkansas history. His return to Fayetteville, along with a Cotton Bowl victory over Kansas State, have Arkansas fans already hoping to dethrone their SEC West rivals.

"I believe Coach (Bobby) Petrino is the best coach in America, and he has put this program back on the national stage," said Davis. "He has instilled in everyone the expectation to be great and that we will win championships.

"You can tell the leadership at Arkansas truly cares about us as people and has put the resources in place for us to reach our goals, and that is very special. Also, our fans make playing for the Razorbacks a great experience. I can’t wait for another season with them and my teammates in 2012.”

The competition in the division is only getting tougher with Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M joining the West in 2012, but Petrino certainly has the pieces moving in the right direction. The Razorbacks have won 21 games over the last two seasons, including back-to-back 6-2 conference records and a No. 5 ranking in the final AP Poll of the 2011 season.

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Posted on: November 22, 2011 2:25 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Arkansas at LSU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: the Hog defensive line plays the game of its collective life. As noted here in the run-up to LSU-Alabama, the Tigers' big plays come almost exclusively in the passing game; even with Spencer Ware and Michael Ford around, LSU ranks among the nation's lowest producers of long runs even as they rank among its most consistent in grinding out 4, 5, or 6 yards a carry. Without that steady diet of chain-moving runs, though, what happens? Against Alabama, what happened was that Jarrett Lee found Rueben Randle blanketed, the LSU passing game got neither big plays nor small ones, and the Bayou Bengal offense as a whole (even in victory) limped to its worst offensive showing of the year.

Obviously, the Hog defense isn't going to be able to do the things Alabama's did, and there's a danger it could get run over completely; already, the Razorbacks have given up 197 rushing yards to Alabama, 381 to Texas A&M, 291 to Auburn, 222 to Vanderbilt. But in players like ends Jake Bequette and Tenarius Wright and tackles D.D. Jones and Byran Jones, the Hogs have the potential to play much better than those numbers would suggest. If they can occasionally slow down Ware and Ford and force the LSU passing game to methodically move down the field rather than pop the big one to Randle on second- or third-and-short, their offense will have a chance at outscoring an LSU unit that -- for all its many strengths -- isn't as consistently explosive.


LSU WILL WIN IF:
their secondary comes to play. Let's be honest: Dennis Johnson has given the Razorback running game a real spark over the past several weeks, and the potential return of Knile Davis might spark them further still. But against the nation's No. 4 run defense, the Hogs simply aren't going to win the game on the ground. Tyler Wilson, Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Co. are going to have to get theirs. And they've got some hope--against the only other truly dedicated pass-first offense they've faced this year, LSU gave up 463 yards, 7.1 an attempt, and two touchdowns to West Virginia.

But since then, Morris Claiborne, Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu, Ron Brooks, Brandon Taylor (and the rest) have been on lockdown, allowing zero touchdown passes over their last seven games while collecting seven interceptions. Nationally, only Alabama boasts a lower opposing QB rating. If the LSU defensive backs do anything similar to Wilson like they'd done to everyone else this season that wasn't West Virginia, the Hogs won't stand a chance.

THE X-FACTOR: Adams has long since proven his ability to change a game with his punt returns, but Brad Wing and the elite LSU punt coverage unit mean he may not get much of a chance. The bigger issue: if the Hogs can avoid the backbreaking turnover. Wilson has been largely careful with the ball but may face heavy pressure and has had a brainfart or two here or there; see his gift-wrapped pick-six vs. South Carolina. And Johnson has already given up a handful of critical fumbles this season. If the Hogs hand an LSU team that thrives on field position those kinds of early Christmas presents, forget winning--they'll be lucky to keep the game competitive.  
Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:00 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 7:46 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Mississippi St. at Arkansas

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

MISSISSIPPI STATE WILL WIN IF: their secondary gets some help. The Bulldogs were hoping to be sitting prettier than 5-5 at this stage when the season began, but it hasn't been the defensive backfield's fault; led by a pair of senior safeties and junior corner Johnthan Banks's All-SEC caliber performance, State ranks 14th in the nation in pass defense and in the top 30 in opposing passer rating. Even on the road, even without injured safety Nickoe Whitley, the Bulldogs figure to cause Tyler Wilson as many headaches as any team he's faced since Alabama; it was just last week the Tide's AJ McCarron posted the second-lowest QB rating of his season in Starkville, lower even than his performance vs. LSU. But just keeping Wilson (relatively) in check won't be enough. The rapidly improving front seven has to prevent the boom-or-bust Dennis Johnson from getting rolling; the State running game has to move the chains and keep the low-fi Bulldog offense from getting in field position trouble; and of course the Bulldog special teams can't give up cheap to scores to Joe Adams on punt returns or Johnson on kickoffs.

Do all of those things, and the secondary should provide enough of a defensive foundation to build an upset win around.

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they keep coming up with big plays. Mississippi State is a team simply not built to win a shootout on the road; since their Week 2 explosion vs. Auburn, they've averaged just 12.6 points per their five SEC games. Meanwhile, the Hogs have scored 49 and 44 points against their last two SEC opponents, many of them coming via the home run. Against Tennessee there was Adams' ridiculous punt return, a 70-yard Johnson sprint, and a 40-yard bomb, again, to Adams; against South Carolina the Hogs got a Johnson kickoff return for TD, a 68-yard strike to Jarius Wright, and the game-icing sack-and-strip from Jake Bequette that set the offense up at the 1. Big plays like those not only demoralize the opposition and put points on the board in a hurry, they represent quick possessions that pack more possessions and plays into a game and offer the Hog offense even more chances at pushing their total in the 30s or 40s. Do that against MSU, and the Bulldogs won't have a prayer of keeping up.

THE X-FACTOR: Johnson. The junior has struggled the past two years with injuries and thanks in part to fumbling issues, didn't break into the Hog lineup immediately this season even after the loss of Knile Davis. But Johnson's combination of power and explosiveness offers the Arkansas running game a spark it just doesn't have otherwise, and Bobby Petrino has shown for years that if he can pair some kind of legitimate ground attack with his aerial fireworks ... watch out.
Posted on: November 12, 2011 9:51 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 8 Arkansas 49, Tennessee 7

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



ARKANSAS WON: 
Another week, another comfortable home win for what's still the SEC's clearcut third-best team ... particularly in Fayetteville. Tyler Wilson hit 16-of-26 for 224 yards and 3 touchdowns, Dennis Johnson ran for 8.8 yards a carry and two long TDsand Joe Adams chipped in a punt return for touchdown that ranks among the plays of the year. The sputtering Tennessee offense continued to do its sputtering thing, totaling 377 yards but translating them into just 7 points thanks to shoddy execution in Razorback territory.

WHY ARKANSAS WON: Tennessee knew the Hogs would throw the ball around and score points, so they really couldn't afford to do things like cap a 14-play second-quarter with a goalline interception (hi, Justin Worley!) or let Adams break free for a special teams score or turn the ball over on downs twice across the Razorback 30. But what they really, really couldn't afford to do was let the Hogs go wild on the ground. Which Arkansas did: 236 rushing yards, three touchdowns, and a ridiculous 8.7 yards per-carry average as a team as the Razorback line simply overwhelmed the injury-ridden, inexperienced Tennessee front seven.

Combine that sort of success on the ground with a passing game headed up by the likes of Wilson and called by Bobby Petrino, and 49 points is right about what you'd expect.

WHEN ARKANSAS WON: The Vols were probably already no-hopers down 28-7 in the third quarter, but when they failed to convert a 4th-and-1 on their own 40, that was pretty much the final nail in the coffin. When Wilson hit Adams for a 40-yard touchdown on the very next play, that was the coffin getting strafed by a staple gun, just for kicks.

WHAT ARKANSAS WON: Lots of late time for their backups, and one fewer hurdle cleared between themselves and a season-ending showdown with LSU.

WHAT TENNESSEE LOST: Their very last shred of margin-for-error if they want to make a bowl game. At 4-6 overall (and 0-6 in the SEC), the Vols must sweep Vanderbilt and Kentucky to return to the postseason.

Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 3:43 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Tennessee at Arkansas

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

TENNESSEE WILL WIN IF: Tyler Bray finds the broken thumb miracle cure between now and Saturday. The Vols' sophomore starter hasn't played since his team's loss to Georgia Oct. 8, and though he got his hard cast off this week, it doesn't sound like he's going to be nearly ready to play against the Hogs. But the Vols might not have a prayer without him: in the three SEC games Bray has missed, backups Matt Simms and Justin Worley have combined to complete 39.5 percent of their passes and post a 0-to-5 TD-to-INT ratio. Yes, those three SEC games came against teams with far better defenses than Arkansas's -- LSU's, Alabama's, and South Carolina's, in fact -- but two of them also came at home. It's also not like the Vols' 118th-ranked rushing game (fresh off averaging all of 2.67 yards per-carry vs. Middle Tennessee State) is going to be much help. Unless Bray can find a witch doctor or mad scientist or special magnetic wristband that fixes his thumb in time, it's awfully hard -- and just about impossible -- to see the Vols winning this game.

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they can just avoid catastrophic mistakes. Maybe easier said than done, of course, if you saw Tyler Wilson do this vs. Carolina last Saturday:



Wilson isn't the only Hog to have turnover issues of late: Dennis Johnson's fumbles helped keep both Vanderbilt and Ole Miss in those respective games. If Wilson, Johnson or any other butter-fingered Hog set the Vols up with short fields or throw away scoring opportunities, the Vols have shown -- in their 6-6 halftime tie with Alabama -- that they can hang around with better teams, even on the road.

Hang around long enough to win it? Probably not, but where turnovers are involved, never say never. Wilson and Co. have to make sure they aren't.

THE X-FACTOR: Jake Bequette. The Razorbacks' preseason All-SEC defensive end had suffered an injury-plagued and disappointing season until last Saturday, when he roared to life with three sacks of Connor Shaw and the game-clinching forced fumble. If Bequette terrorizes poor Worley or Simms the way he terrorized Shaw, the Vols really, really have no hope.

Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:45 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 10

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



WINNER: LSU. 

Usually, we'd find some specific angle to take within the team or the coaching staff when naming our "top" winner. Saying LSU was your big winner this SEC Saturday is like saying fire is hot.

But the stakes were so high for their win over Alabama, the rewards so lavish, that there's no real need to split those kind of hairs. LSU will now be the unquestioned, unanimous No. 1 team in the nation in every available poll, BCS standings included; they are only two games away from clinching the SEC West championship, one of which is against a team that's lost 12 straight SEC games and the other at home against a team whose last two road trips ended in death-defying escapes from that same 12-game losing streak team and Vanderbilt; they are three SEC games, then, from playing for the national championship in their own home state, at the same site where they won it in 2003 and 2007. And they accomplished all of that by defeating what might be their bitterest rival's best team in 20 years in that rival's own stadium and forced their forme head coach under the .500 mark against their current head coach. It's 100 percent possible LSU just cleared the highest hurdle between themselves and the national championship and did so in the sweetest possible fashion.

Not bad for 60-plus minutes of work.

LOSER: "Make his ass quit." 

That's the phrase Nick Saban used in a pregame speech to his players before the 2008 meeting with LSU, and one popularized as a kind of motto amongst Tide fans for the program's philosophy of oustanding conditioning work, physical play, perfect execution, and -- specifically -- the combination of all three forcing the opponent to surrender as the second half drags on. It's worked spectacularly for the most part under Saban, and until Saturday 2011 was no exception: the Tide didn't even allow a second-half point in the month of October. 

But in recent big games, the Tide have been strangely unable to force anyone on the other side to "quit"--and in fact, have come closer to doing it themselves. There was the fourth-quarter failures against LSU in Baton Rouge last season. Then the fall from 24 points ahead against Auburn. And tonight, there was this in the second half: five first downs, 104 yards, two turnovers and three three-and-outs, the last of which was the disastrous overtime possession which covered minus-10 yards.  LSU did next-to-nothing on offense in regulation too, of course, but in overtime their Jordan Jefferson/Michael Ford speed option still worked as well as it ever did.

Result: another championship-level game in which it was the other team outplaying the Tide over the final 30 minutes-plus and walking off the winners. It's not conditioning (we have little doubt every team at this level is as fit as they're going to be), but those second-half woes are something Saban's going to have to figure out all the same if he wants his teams hoisting trophies again.

WINNER: the Baton Rouge ticket market. 

Oh, Arkansas's visit on Nov. 25 won't be a second "Game of the Century" ... but with the Hogs seeing off the Gamecocks and LSU triumphing in Tuscaloosa, that game now becomes the biggest tilt remaining in the SEC's 2011 season by some margin. Despite the Razorback road woes mentioned above, Arkansas's history with LSU makes them the only realistic obstacle standing between the Tigers and Atlanta ... maybe even the BCS title game. The hype starts now. Can Dennis Johnson also bring that wood?



LOSERS: Rematch advocates. 

The stipulation was always that the best scenario for a rematch was for Alabama to win a narrow, competitive game over the Tigers that left voters wondering what would happen on a neutral field. We got the "narrow, competitive game" part, but voters won't need to see LSU on a neutral field ... since they've already beaten the Tide on Bryant-Denny Stadium's highly hostile field. Beyond that, while the first half featured plenty of smart offensive football countered only by outstanding defense, the second more often seemed like a sloppy, grind-it-out affair with neither team taking much in the way of offensive risks or producing anything resembling attacking "flair." Aesthetic value shouldn't play a part when deciding who gets to play for a national title, but voters are human all the same--and they may not be thrilled by the prospect of a second touchdown-less meeting.

WINNER: Joker Phillips.

There were more than a few people who saw Kentucky's opening-week slog against Western Kentucky, their wipeout against Florida, the epic pratfall at South Carolina, and pegged them for an 0-8 season in the SEC. Even as recently as last week, a dispiriting double-digit home loss to Mississippi State didn't suggest a corner was about to be turned.

But Phillips kept his team believing, and Saturday they comprehensively outplayed an Ole Miss team that -- at the very least -- has more offensive playmakers and comparable defensive talent. No one, Phillips included, would claim he's done a great coaching job this season, but likewise no one would argue he and his staff didn't badly outprepare the staff on the opposite sideline. 

LOSER: Pete Boone.

Whether he chooses between them now or at the end of what will likely be an 0-8 SEC campaign, the Ole Miss athletic director has two choices ahead of him after today's Rebel loss in Lexington: he can either stand behind Houston Nutt and make his own less-than-popular hold on the AD's chair that much less popular, or he can swallow Nutt's gigantic contractual bullet and go in search of a new coach even as he also fundraises for a new basketball facility and other capital improvements. Before today, Boone could entertain the possibility that a big finish by Nutt would allow him to put the ax away for at least one more year and still save face. Not any more--Nutt will enter 2012 as a virtual lame duck, or employed somewhere else, and there's nothing else Boone can realistically hope for any longer.

WINNER: Jeff Demps. 

For weeks, Demps has been nagged by various injuries. And not coincidentally -- though God knows the Gators' issues weren't that simple -- for weeks the Gators' ground game has all the effectiveness of the proverbial submarine's screen door. Against Vanderbilt, Demps finally looked like his old self, and not just on the juke-the-first-tackler-out-of-his-j
ock 52-yard touchdown that all-but-clinched the Gator victory. Also not a coincidence: with a little bit of help from Mike Gillislee, the Gators ran for 197 yards -- 158 of them Demps' -- and won their first game since September. 

LOSERS: Mark Richt's circadian rhythms. 

You know, sleep patterns. Not that college football coaches ever have particularly regular ones, but Richt's might have stayed within shouting of distance of normal if he'd known his Bulldogs didn't have everything to lose against Auburn this coming Saturday. That's not to say there's any worries about the Dawgs' total dismantling of New Mexico State -- if anything, that was a calming performance, especially where Aaron Murray's return to his usual accurate form was concerned -- but when the day started, his team didn't have to worry about the pressure that comes with being two winnable home games away from a return to Atlanta. Thanks to South Carolina's loss, that's the case, but it's also the case that Richt's teams have not performed particularly well under this new kind of pressure the last few seasons.

That's not to say, of course, that Richt wouldn't take having his team control its own destiny in a heartbeat over the alternative. But we're guessing there's a few more exhausted stares at the digital clock at 2:47 a.m. this week, too, now that Richt knows the fallout from a loss will be greater than ever.

Posted on: November 6, 2011 1:24 am
 

QUICK HITS: Arkansas 44, South Carolina 28

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

ARKANSAS WON: 
On the stat sheet -- where the Razorbacks outgained the visiting Gamecocks 435-206 and won the turnover battle 4-to-1 -- this was an easy victory. But the Gamecocks found a way to make the Hogs sweat, scoring on a Devin Taylor pick-six, a short field following a long kickoff return, and two out-of-nowhere long touchdown drives to pull within 30-28 early in the fourth quarter. But Tyler Wilson answered with a decisive 8-play, 63-yard touchdown drive to put the home team back in control, and the Hogs weren't threatened again.

WHY ARKANSAS WON: Because eventually, even with the help it got from Taylor and special teams, the Gamecock offense just wasn't built to keep pace with Arkansas's. Connor Shaw had led Carolina to 28 points total in his team's two previous games--getting them to 28 in this one game alone was a huge step forward, and a nod is due even if the Gamecocks somehow got there on only those barely-more-than-200 yards.

Arkansas, meanwhile, twice settled for field goals after driving inside the Gamecock 15, were stopped on 4th-and-goal at the 2, and had two other drives end in a missed field goal. And they'd still scored 37 points when Shaw stepped back to pass inside his own 10 late in the fourth -- no time any more for trying to grind out drives -- and was buried by Hog defensive end Jake Bequette. Shaw fumbled, the Hogs recovered, ballgame.

Coming from behind was never really an option for an offense like this ... and given the way Wilson was playing, that Dennis Johnson is running angry these days, and that the Hogs were at home, that was always going to happen eventually. This was just an offensive mismatch.

WHEN ARKANSAS WON: when Bequette made that sack. But we suppose getting Broderick Green into the end zone two plays later (pushing the lead to 16 points with only 4:07 to play), as opposed to a second goalline stuff, made it official.

WHAT ARKANSAS WON: Combined with Alabama's loss, a ticket directly back into the SEC west race. If the Hogs win out -- a tall task, since that would include taking down LSU in Baton Rouge -- they would force a three-way tie atop the division that would be broken by the BCS standings. It's a long shot, but it's a shot nonetheless.

WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA LOST: their grip on the SEC East. The Gamecocks now slip a game behind Georgia in the loss column, and will need beat Florida at home next week and have the Dawgs to lose to either Auburn or Kentucky to make it back to Atlanta. Their shot is probably better than the Hogs', truthfully, but it probably doesn't feel that way with their destiny controlled by someone else.

Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:37 pm
 

Keys to the Game: South Carolina at Arkansas

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF:
they can play keep-away. Much as they've struggled the past two weeks, Arkansas still has arguably the most explosive offense in the SEC (particularly with Dennis Johnson taking more of the load at running back) and will be primed to make up for the close calls at home. The current iteration of the Gamecock offense -- with no Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw looking average-at-best away from the friendly confines of Williams-Brice, and Alshon Jeffery on the verge of winding up on a milk carton -- is not going to win a shootout against the Hogs in Fayetteville. The best way to avoid that? Do what the Gamecocks did against Tennessee: milk the clock. Freshman tailback Brandon Wilds doesn't have nearly Lattimore's burst, but his 137 yards against the Vols kept the chains moving and led to a whopping 13-plus minute advantage in time-of-possession. Given that the Hog defense has been dreadful of late (giving up an average of 248 yards their past five games), the opportunity is there for Wilds and the Gamecock ground game to do something similar against the Hogs ... and keep the game the kind of low-scoring slog they pulled out against Mississippi State and the Vols.

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they show up for the first half. The Hogs have been absolutely dominant in recent second halves, outscoring their last four opponents 81-17 after the break. But they've had to, since they've been outscored 87-59 in the first half of those same four games and trailed three times. Those opponents, however, haven't had anything to throw at the Hogs defensively like Carolina will in Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and a secondary ranked third in the country in pass defense. Another comeback won't be so easy. That said, if Tyler Wilson can get out to an early lead and force the Gamecocks out of their three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust comfort zone -- and the game into Shaw's hands -- the game could get away fro mthe visitors in a hurry.

THE X-FACTOR: Johnson. It's only fitting that Johnson has taken over as the Hogs' No. 1 rusher during the Halloween season, since he's the very definition of a trick-or-treat player. His 57-yard touchdown on a late first-half draw against Ole Miss turned the momentum of that game ... but his critical second-half fumbles against both the Rebels and Vanderbilt also helped both those teams stay in touch when it looked like Arkansas might put them away. If Johnson can avoid giving the ball away, he should be a major factor--but that's a big if.
 
 
 
 
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