Smith, Three Others

FAYETTEVILLE — Michael Smith was known as the player strapped with the unenviable task of replacing Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in Arkansas' backfield before the 2008 season.

This summer, with preseason practice less than three weeks away, Smith is being heralded as something else: one of the Southeastern Conference's best running backs.

The league's coaches tabbed Smith as Arkansas' lone first-team, preseason All-SEC selection Thursday. He was one of two running backs to earn a first-team spot, joining LSU's Charles Scott.

Smith also was one of four Razorbacks recognized by the coaches All-SEC team. Tight end D.J. Williams (second-team offense), defensive end Malcolm Sheppard (second-team defense) and offensive lineman Mitch Petrus (third-team offense) earned honors.

The 5-foot-7, 176-pound Smith is coming off a year in which he shouldered Arkansas' rushing load. He ran for 1,072 of the Razorbacks' 1,362 yards in 2008. In addition, Smith also was a threat in the passing game, catching 32 passes for 298 yards.

But the heavy workload took a toll on Smith in the second half of the season. He missed time with a concussion and sat out the season-ending win against LSU with a hamstring injury. Smith underwent surgery in the winter and missed spring practice, but Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said he is back to full speed.

"He's a guy that's very motivated," Petrino said when asked about Smith's leadership Wednesday. "He's done a nice job. I expect him to take control of the team."

But Petrino said Smith also will have much more help carrying the football in 2009. Sophomores De'Anthony Curtis and Dennis Johnson are expected to handle expanded roles. Freshmen Knile Davis and Ronnie Wingo could make immediate impacts as well.

Arkansas also is awaiting word on the eligibility status of Broderick Green, who is hoping the NCAA will allow him to play this season after transferring from Southern California.

Smith said last week he welcomes all the help this season.

"There are enough footballs for all the backs," Smith said last week. "Anybody who wants to make a play is going to get the chance to show that they can make a play this year."

Petrus earned third-team honors Thursday despite sitting out the 2009 season for academic reasons. However, the senior is expected to compete for a starting spot on Arkansas' line.

Sheppard returns after working as the Razorbacks' top defensive player last season, collecting 65 tackles and 13.5 tackles for losses. Williams led Arkansas in receiving as a sophomore with 61 catches for 723 yards and three touchdowns. Petrino said he is counting on the junior to take on a larger leadership role in 2009.

"D.J. Williams is ready to do it," Petrino said. "Last year as a young player and a sophomore, he was happy taking care of himself and pushing himself to play real well. I think he's ready to take more responsibility on helping other guys."

Razorbacks on Coaches Preseason All-SEC Team

RB Michael Smith (First team)

DT Malcolm Sheppard (Second team)

TE D.J. Williams (Second team)

OL Mitch Petrus (Third team)

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