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Wendel Davis: new number new attitude

Wendel Davis:  new number new attitude

For Razorback senior linebacker Wendel Davis, this season is about change and improvement. The starting strong side linebacker wore number 47 for the Hogs last year. This year he changed his number to 10. Davis said there is no particular reason why he chose to make the switch, but that it has been a spark that he’s been looking for going into his senior season. “I went through a lot of stuff going from my sophomore year to my junior year and I didn’t think I played as well my junior year,” Davis said. “I wanted a change for my last year so I decided to start the change off with my number and get going from there. Certain things you have to go through at certain times, but it’s in the past. It’s time to move forward.” It appears Davis’ plan has worked. Seven games into the 2009 season, Davis leads the team with 48 tackles. He ended last season sixth on the team with 51 tackles. To go along with his 48 tackles, which has him at 13th in the SEC, he also has a sack, an interception and fumble recovery so far this season. “I’ve definitely seen a change in how I play this year,” Davis said. “I’m a lot better now.”

This improvement has led to another change for him; being named a captain on defense. The coaches said in the spring that Davis really started to develop and grow as a leader. He has embraced the leadership role and is grateful for the position as a senior.“It’s a good honor to have, being my last year,” Davis said. “I just want to try and lead by example and do a good job out there on the field playing hard and doing what I have to do first then making sure everyone else is doing what they need to do.”

Davis’ path to his leadership and starting role on defense wasn’t easy. He played in all of the Hogs’ 13 games in 2007, logging one start. A knee injury in 2008 forced Davis to miss spring football while he recuperated from off-season surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. “We asked a lot of Wendel coming off the knee injury, which he hurt in late February or early March,” Linebackers coach Reggie Johnson said. “To come back and play in September, that’s asking a lot of a kid. But he fought through it and I couldn’t be more proud. He showed some toughness.” Davis played in nine games last season, starting seven of those in Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino’s first year. He registered 51 tackles, forced a fumble and picked off a pass last season. “Wendel is playing a lot faster now,” linebacker Jerry Franklin said. “He’s gotten more comfortable. His knee has gotten better. He’s been a better leader on the field for us, too.”

Davis is trying to use his captain status to carry the improvement in his game to the rest of the defense. “The defense is playing with more passion,” Davis said. “We understand the scheme better now after a year. Everyone pretty much knows what they’re doing.” Davis believes the defense has begun to work and grow as a unit. His teammates and Petrino attribute some of the defensive success to Davis, for his ability and knowledge of the game. “He’s a key component to this defense,” safety Matt Harris said. “He cares so much about the game of football that you know that play bothered him a lot. I respect the heck out of him on and off the field. Last year in the Florida game, he gave up a big run and he was almost in tears beating himself up because he felt like he hurt the team. That’s what I love about him is that he cares so much about this game and the team.” “He really has a great understanding of offensive blocking schemes and what teams are trying to do with the running game,” Petrino said. “He’s not hesitating, playing through. He gets downhill and makes contact in the backfield. We’re seeing that more and more. I know he made a comment to a teammate that he wished he would have known all this last year and he could have played a lot better. He’s always had great instincts but now his understanding of the game and how offensive schemes relate to what we’re trying to do on defense is better and it’s allowed him to play real well. He’s going to be real key because he’s the guy in the middle.”

Ultimately, the Razorback defense is not where it wants to be quite yet, but Davis said he will continue to put forward his best effort to do what he can. “The overall goal this season was to always come out and play my hardest,” Davis said. “I know I’m not the best player on the field every game, but I come out and try and play like I’m the best. I’ve done that and I’ve been doing that and I’m going to keep doing that.” Davis knows his time as a Razorback is running out. He hopes the changes he’s made and his moral victories on and off the field, will lead to personal success and triumph for the team. “This is my last year and it’s important for me to have a good year,” Davis said. “I want to go out on a good note and have my best season. I think I’ve been doing that so far but I’m never satisfied and I know I can continue to improve. I want to be a dominate player and while I may not be the best player out there, I’m going to play like I am. I feel a lot more comfortable now.”

Sports Category : Football