FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas football team had eight student-athletes voted to the 2012 SEC Media Days Preseason All-SEC Team, which was announced Thursday.
The Razorbacks had four representatives on the first team, including three on offense that tied for the most in the conference, three on the second team and one on the third team.
Quarterback Tyler Wilson, running back Knile Davis and wide receiver Cobi Hamilton were named to the first-team offense and were joined on the first-team by running back/kick returner Dennis Johnson in the all-purpose slot. Tight end Chris Gragg, offensive guard Alvin Bailey and linebacker Alonzo Highsmith were picked for the second team, and punter Dylan Breeding was selected to the third team.
Wilson also was the first-team quarterback on the coaches’ preseason team and has been named to watch lists for the Maxwell, Manning and Davey O’Brien awards this preseason. Last season he became the only Razorback in school history to be named first-team All-SEC quarterback, an honor he earned after leading Arkansas to a school-record-tying 11 wins in his first season as a starter. The senior from Greenwood, Ark., holds nine school records, including career completion percentage, and has produced three of the top-five single-game completions marks in school history. He also ranks in the top 10 in school history in career touchdown passes, career pass completions and career pass attempts. He finished the 2011 season 277-of-438 passing for 3,638 yards, leading the SEC with an average of 279.8 per game, and 24 touchdowns with six interceptions, becoming just the second Razorback to pass for 3,000 yards in a season and leading the SEC with the eighth-highest single-season passing yards total in conference history. He also led the SEC in total offense per game, completions and pass efficiency rating. Wilson’s attempt-to-interceptions ratio of 1:73 was the third-best in SEC history with a minimum of 300 attempts and the fourth-best in conference history with a minimum of 200 attempts.
Davis was a first-team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press in 2010, when he led all SEC running backs with 1,322 yards on the ground, the fourth-highest single-season total in school history. The junior from Missouri City, Texas, was named to numerous preseason All-America and All-SEC teams as well as watch lists for the Doak Walker, Maxwell and Walter Camp awards in 2011 before suffering an injury during a preseason scrimmage that forced him to miss the entire season. In 2010, his average of 101.7 rushing yards per game ranked second in the SEC and 16th in the NCAA. His 6.48 yards per rushing attempt was the highest in the NCAA among running backs that carried the ball at least 200 times and ranked as the fifth-highest single-season average at Arkansas. He ended the season with five consecutive 100-yard rushing games, and his 157.8 rushing yards per game in November made him the only SEC player to average 100 yards per game on the ground in the season’s final full month. This preseason, he has been picked as the first-team running back by the conference coaches and named to the Maxwell Award Watch List.
Hamilton earned his second first-team nod after also being picked on the coaches’ preseason team and was named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List for the second straight year and the Maxwell Award Watch List. He made a career-high 34 receptions in 2011 for 542 yards and four touchdowns. The senior from Texarkana, Texas, ranked fifth in the SEC last season with an average of 15.9 yards per catch, and his career average of 17.9 yards per reception is the highest among current Razorbacks. He enters the 2012 season with a streak of at least one reception in 22 straight games and is ninth on Arkansas’ all-time career 100-yard receiving games list with four. Hamilton also is tied for 11th all-time in school history with 13 receiving touchdowns in his career and is 15th on UA’s all-time career receiving yards list with 1,519. In 2011, he totaled a season-high 132 receiving yards on a season-high five catches with one touchdown in the 52-3 win vs. New Mexico and the next week tied his season high with five receptions for 82 yards in a 38-28 win vs. Troy.
Johnson, who also was the coaches’ pick for first-team all-purpose player, enters the 2012 season as the SEC’s active career leader in all-purpose yards with 4,104, kickoff return yards with 2,475 and total return yards with 2,475 and is tied for fourth on the SEC’s all-time career list with three kick return touchdowns. The senior from Texarkana, Ark., was named second-team All-SEC all-purpose player by the Associated Press in 2011 after he ranked in the top 10 in the conference in all-purpose yards per game, kickoff return average and rushing yards per game. His average of 126.0 all-purpose yards per game ranked second in the SEC, while his average of 25.61 yards per kickoff return, the third-highest single-season average in Arkansas history, was third in the conference and 29th in the country and his 60.1 rushing yards per game were seventh in the SEC. His average of 6.32 yards per carry was the highest in the SEC among runners with at least 100 carries and fourth overall in the conference. He was the first Razorback to be named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week three times in a career, and his five career SEC Player of the Week selections, including one Freshman of the Week and one Offensive Player of the Week, are tied with Darren McFadden for the most in school history.
Gragg, who was included on the Mackey Award Watch List last week, is the Razorbacks’ leading returning receiver from last season. He caught a single-season career-high 41 passes, ranking third on the team, for a career-high 518 yards, which was the fourth-highest total among Razorbacks in 2011. The Warren, Ark., native tied for 11th in the SEC with his average of 3.2 receptions per game, and his 39.8 receiving yards per game ranked 14th in the conference. In his career, he has caught 50 passes for 714 yards and four touchdowns. Gragg had five games with at least four receptions in 2011, including a single-game career-high eight for a career-high 119 yards and one touchdown in UA’s 44-17 victory over Mississippi State.
Bailey has been named to watch lists for the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy this preseason and was named an All-American by Pro Football Weekly and a second-team All-SEC performer in 2011, when he started all 13 games as part of an offensive line that allowed the offense to break 16 game or season school records. The junior from Broken Arrow, Okla., has started all 26 games of his Razorback career and blocked consecutive seasons with a 3,000-yard passer, including the first season in school history with a 3,000-yard passer and a 1,000-yard rusher in 2010. Arkansas led the SEC in total offense, passing offense and scoring offense in 2011 to become just the fifth different school, and first since 2001, to lead the conference in all three categories in a single season and became the sixth team in conference history, and second since 1992, to lead the SEC in passing offense for three straight seasons. The Razorbacks ranked 13th in the country with their average of 300.7 passing yards per game, 15th in the nation with an average of 36.8 points per game and 29th in the NCAA with an average of 438.1 yards of total offense per game.
Highsmith, a member of the Butkus Award Watch List, started all 13 games of his first season at Arkansas and finished 2011 first on the team and 10th in the SEC with 12.5 tackles for loss. The senior from Missouri City, Texas, recorded 80 tackles, including 12.5 for loss with 4.5 sacks, two quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception and one pass breakup. His sack total was second on the team, and his tackle total ranked third on the team. He made a career-high 12 tackles, including a career-high-tying 2.0 tackles for loss, in the 38-14 win vs. No. 15 Auburn. He scored his first touchdown as a Razorback on a 47-yard fumble return and also made seven tackles with 0.5 sack at No. 1 LSU. He opened the season with four tackles and 2.0 for loss, which was the third-highest TFL total by an SEC player in the season’s first week, in a 51-7 win vs. Missouri State. The next week, he started a stretch of six straight games with at least five tackles by making five stops in the 52-3 victory vs. New Mexico.
Breeding, one of 25 punters included on the Ray Guy Award Watch List announced last week, was a second-team All-SEC performer in 2011, when he averaged 45.3 yards per punt with a long of 70 yards. His average was the third-highest single-season average in school history, led the SEC and ranked seventh in the NCAA. The Hoover, Ala., native became the first punter in school history to lead the SEC in punting average and the first to top the conference since Greg Horne led the Southwest Conference in 1986. Breeding boomed 17 punts of 50 yards or longer, dropped 16 inside the 20-yard line with just three touchbacks and had 16 punts result in a fair catch. He averaged at least 40 yards per punt in each game he attempted a punt and registered a single-game career-high average of 50.4 yards per punt, including a career-long 70 yarder, on five punts at No.1 LSU. Entering the 2012 season, Breeding ranks fifth all-time at Arkansas in career punts, career punt yardage and career punt average.
The Razorbacks begin practice on Aug. 2 and open the 2012 season by hosting Jacksonville State in Fayetteville at 6 p.m. The Arkansas Football postseason awards campaign is on Twitter @ARKTD2012