One of the key enforcing figures on a defense is the defensive end. The edge defender is responsible for rushing the quarterback, preventing the run, reading screen plays and dropping back into pass coverage. There have been many Razorbacks who were regarded as great defensive ends like Jamaal Anderson, Steve Conley and Billy Ray Smith Jr.
The Razorbacks have been counting on Adrian Davis since his freshman year to be yet another great Arkansas Razorback defensive end.
Davis is a 6-4, 252 pound, senior defensive end from Rosenberg, Texas. He was recruited by Oklahoma State, SMU, Texas A&M, Utah, Texas State and Sam Houston State. Davis was a starter at defensive back as a sophomore at Terry High School and missed his entire junior year with a knee injury. As a senior, Davis earned all-state honors as a safety after leading his team with 132 tackles and seven interceptions.
With impressive numbers like these in the talent loaded football state of Texas, why Arkansas?
“That’s one of the reasons I came to Arkansas,” Davis said. “I knew I could contribute immediately. Now a lot of these guys are like my brothers and my family. The new coaches got here and they treat you like family too.”
Davis made an impact in his freshman season for the Razorbacks, appearing in 13 of 14 games on special teams and at linebacker. He made 19 tackles, including 12 solo stops. He moved from linebacker to end in his sophomore year and recorded 65 tackles to rank eighth on the team. In 2008, he had 43 tackles and was second on the team with eight tackles for a loss and five sacks.
Davis was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week last year after the Auburn game in which he had four solo tackles and three sacks for losses of 29 yards. During that game he also had a 17-yard interception return and a forced fumble.
Davis’ season was shortened last year by an injury that caused him to miss the Tulsa and South Carolina games. This only made Davis wanting an even better year for his senior season.
“It was tough missing a couple of games last year, watching my teammates go out there and battle,” Davis said. “Now we get a chance at a fresh new season to go out there and win more games and show everybody how much we want it.”
The senior defensive end has been looked upon this year for leadership on a defense that is going through the transition of playing in the SEC.
“It’s an honor to be elected one of the captains of this football team by all of my teammates,” Davis said. “I just try to go out here and work hard every day and do everything right.”
Leading by example has been crucial for this season’s defense. While many of the Razorback defenders return from a year ago, the squad is still relatively young and looking to rebound from what they felt was a rough 2008.
“The whole defense has improved,” Davis said. “We are flying faster to the ball. We are a lot more physical and just trying to do the little things to make us better as a team.”
Davis and the interior lineman are the most experienced group on the defense. “Malcolm (Sheppard) and I have been doing this for four years,” Davis said. “We think of ourselves as leaders for the younger guys on the D-line. “Tank” (Tenarius Wright) has gone through the same situation as I have when switching from linebacker to defensive end. I try to talk to them, teach them a few things, and help them out. I just try to be respected.”
The defense has shown signs of excellence while also giving up some big plays during the 2009 season.
“We have had a lot of ups and downs,” Davis said. “Towards the end of the year we are just trying to put it all together and finish up strong.”
The time that Davis spends outside of the classroom and on the football field is very limited. He is majoring in sociology at the Fulbright College of Arts and Science.
“I hang around with my teammates and friends a lot, but there isn’t much to do except school and football,” Davis said.
Davis’ collegiate career will be over at the end of this season but his football career could continue on into the NFL where his cousin, Michael Lewis, is the starting safety for the San Francisco 49ers.
“Everybody comes to college wanting one day to get to the NFL,” Davis said. “I’m just concentrating on helping our team right now.”
As far as bowl games and expectations go, the Razorbacks are keeping focused and not trying to let that get in their heads.
“We are trying to take it one game at a time,” Davis said. “We will be happy with wherever we go. Right now we just try to come out every weekend and put on a show.”
No. 18 Adrian Davis has been all over the field for the Razorbacks trying to make his senior year the most memorable and give the Razorback football team a great ending for 2009.