Reserving A Seat For Davis

Editor's Note: This is the fifth in a series of articles on Arkansas' individual positions.

FAYETTEVILLE — When Arkansas' defensive ends come together for their daily position meeting, they can take a seat at one of two tables.

But it's not the players' call where they sit.

One table has only two chairs, and they're reserved for the starters. The other table is a big round one where everyone else sits.

Junior Adrian Davis wouldn't mind having a permanent seat at the starters' table. But until he and Arkansas' other defensive ends can show they can be more consistent in practice, there are no assigned seats in the meeting room.

"I've just got to come out here and be consistent. (The coaches) want me to be more consistent and be a leader on this team," Davis said. "So far, I've still got to accept that role and come out here every day and work hard."

Being consistent has become the unofficial motto for Arkansas' defense, specifically the defensive ends. But that has been tough to do over the past two weeks with redshirt freshman Jake Bequette sidelined with a concussion and senior Antwain Robinson going down with a knee injury on Friday.

That's where Davis comes in.

In a matter of two years, he has gone from being a backup linebacker to a 6-foot-4, 238-pound defensive end who has the ability to get to the quarterback. But Arkansas' coaches would love for Davis to emerge as a consistent pass rusher and have a breakout season in 2008.

"We've got to get him to learn how to rush the passer every down. He shows the ability to do it," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "There are times (when) he gets his head up and starts looking around to see if it's run or pass, but we need him to rush the passer, play pass first and then react to the run.

"And he's just now trying to transition into getting that done."

The Razorbacks haven't had a dominant pass rusher since Jamaal Anderson decided to leave school early for the NFL in 2006. Davis and Robinson tied last season for the most sacks by an Arkansas defensive end with three each, a large dropoff from the 14 sacks Anderson had the previous year.

But Davis spent the offseason bulking up, improving his handwork and trying to get faster, all in the hopes of emerging as a dominant force off the edge this upcoming season. He said he attempted to get faster by running drills with skill position players.

"If I have a breakout year, it's because my teammates pushed me to work harder," said Davis, whose cousin is Michael Lewis, the starting strong safety for the San Francisco 49ers. "So I've just got to come out here every day."

Petrino said Davis looked better during Arkansas' impromptu scrimmage on Wednesday than he did in the team's first fall scrimmage Sunday. The junior will try to build off that when the Razorbacks hold their second official scrimmage at 9 a.m. today. The scrimmage is closed to the public.

Davis significantly increased his tackle total from his freshman to sophomore season, going from 19 as a backup linebacker in 2006 to 65 as a defensive end who started nine games last year. He recorded a career-high 12 tackles in a loss at Tennessee and finished the season with two interceptions to go along with his three sacks.

"Adrian's going to be a great player for us. He has great speed," fellow Arkansas defensive end Damario Ambrose said. "He's a smart football player, too. He's very smart."

Now Davis wants a seat at the big-boy table.

Defensive Line At A Glance

Sure Thing: Defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard was voted a captain for a reason. He's a consistent starter who impresses coaches with his fast motor and willingness to work hard in practice. He's a player who coaches often point to as an example of what they want.

Big Question: Nose tackle Ernest Mitchell had the most sacks by any returning Arkansas player (3 1/2), but it remains to be seen if he can recover fully from offseason knee surgery. He has been limited in practice, but the Razorbacks need his pressure up the middle when the season starts.

Top Newcomer: Van Stumon has been shuttled around to several positions since he arrived at Arkansas in 2006. He has gotten work at fullback and linebacker, but the 6-foot-2, 277-pound sophomore might have found a home at defensive tackle.

Quotable: "Every day has been a different day. We've had some guys step up some days, some guys not. We've just got to be more consistent there." — Arkansas defensive ends coach Kirk Botkin on the defensive ends.

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