Joyner: Knile Davis is SEC's top rusher

July, 13, 2011
7/13/11
11:30
AM ET
Finally, the respect that a lot of Arkansas fans have been waiting for.

The running debate in the SEC has been a hot one this offseason, but fellow SEC blogger Chris Low and I have maintained that Alabama's Trent Richardson and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore have the top two spots secured. However, at least one of our ESPN colleagues disagrees with us.

Tuesday, ESPN's KC Joyner wrote that Arkansas' Knile Davis deserves the crown as the league's top rusher. Joyner broke down the SEC's top six rushers from last season -- Vick Ballard, Brandon Bolden, Davis, Michael Dyer, Marcus Lattimore and Tauren Poole -- into five categories that "gauge ground production in a variety of ways." He then assigned points to each one in each category. First place received six points, second got five and you can do the math from there. Davis ranked first in two categories and was in the top three in four, receiving 24 points, which was three points higher than second-place finisher Michael Dyer.

Here are Joyner's five categories:
Category No. 1: Percentage of rush attempts with big gains (10-plus yards)

1st -- Davis (21.1 percent)
2nd -- Bolden (19.0 percent)
3rd -- Dyer (18.1 percent)
4th -- Lattimore (15.7 percent)
5th -- Ballard (12.8 percent)
6th -- Poole (12.7 percent)

(Note: These percentages are determined using the long rushing plays chart on the cfbstats.com website.)
My take: It really is no surprise that Davis took the top spot here. Davis ranked second to only Cam Newton with 43 carries of 10 yards or more in 2010. Davis has a scary combination of strength and speed that truly frustrates opposing defenses.
Category No. 2: Percentage of rush attempts with explosive gains (20-plus yards)

1st -- Poole (6.9 percent)
2nd -- Bolden (6.7 percent)
3rd -- Dyer (6.0 percent)
4th -- Davis (5.9 percent)
5th -- Lattimore (3.6 percent)
6th -- Ballard (2.7 percent)
My take: Davis slid down the list in this category, but still had a high number of explosive runs last season. He was third with runs of 20 or more yards (12) and ranked first in carries of 60 or more (3) and 70 or more (2).
Category No. 3: Yards per attempt (YPA) against top competition (defined as teams that ranked in the top 30 in rush yards per attempt allowed)

1st -- Davis (6.03 YPA)
2nd -- Poole (5.32 YPA)
3rd -- Dyer (4.85 YPA)
4th -- Ballard (4.34 YPA)
5th -- Lattimore (3.99 YPA)
6th -- Bolden (3.89 YPA)
My take: Davis was second in the league with 108 carries against "top competition" last season. He also ranked first for running backs, averaging 114.71 yards per game against ranked opponents (seven) and averaged 5.82 yards per carry in the process.
Category No. 4: Yards per attempt against weaker competition (defined as foes that did not rank in the top 30 in rush yards per attempt allowed)

1st -- Dyer (7.21 YPA)
2nd -- Davis (6.99 YPA)
3rd -- Bolden (6.42 YPA)
4th -- Lattimore (5.71 YPA)
5th -- Ballard (5.52 YPA)
6th -- Poole (4.96 YPA)
My take: Davis was pretty consistent with his performance against top defenses and lower-ranked defenses. It's always nice to see players have the right mindset entering each game, no matter the opponent.
Category No. 5: Good blocking YPA against four SEC opponents with top-30 rankings in rush YPA (Alabama, Auburn, LSU and South Carolina -- chosen because they were the most common SEC opponents from these running backs' schedules)

1st -- Poole (9.45 YPA)
2nd -- Bolden (8.35 YPA)
3rd -- Davis (8.14 YPA)
4th -- Dyer (6.38 YPA)
5th -- Lattimore (5.52 YPA)
6th -- Ballard (5.11 YPA)
My take: According to Joyner's research, Davis was the beneficiary of good blocking on at least 54 percent of his rushing attempts in these games. Davis had his lowest output in these games against Alabama (42 yards) and had his highest against LSU (152). He averaged 98.75 yards per game in these contests.
Total points:

1st -- Davis (24)
2nd -- Dyer (21)
3rd -- Bolden (20)
4th -- Poole (19)
5th -- Lattimore (12)
6th -- Ballard (9)
My take: There is no question that Davis is one of the most explosive players in the SEC. The thing that makes his season even more impressive is that all of his 100-plus-yard games came in the final seven games of the season, including going over the 150-yard mark four times. During the last seven games of the season, Davis averaged 146.86 yards per contest. Arkansas might get more attention with its passing game, but Davis will be very important this fall, especially with new quarterback Tyler Wilson taking over.

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