By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
ARKANSAS NEWS BUREAU
FAYETTEVILLE — Former Arkansas coaches Paul Petrino, Paul Haynes and John L. Smith told The Sporting News they believed some members of the 2012 quit on the staff during the Razorbacks’ 4-8 season.
It’s no surprise a few former Razorbacks disagreed after the story was published.
A handful of players took to social media to dispute the coaches’ claims, saying any thoughts they quit on the staff weren’t true. It included former running back Knile Davis, who published a lengthy statement to Twitter that included: “I don’t think so. Not these guys.”
“The same guys who sacrificed their time and freedom,” Davis wrote. “The same guys who gave their blood sweat and tears for that hog on the side of that helmet. The same guys who skipped an opportunity of a life time by not entering the draft and came back knowing the risk. The same guys that battled to get a win in the liberty bowl in the freezing cold. The same guys that battled to get the schools first BCS birth (sic) in the Sugar Bowl. The same guys that fought and won the Cotton Bowl.
“These same guys quit on one of the most anticipated seasons in Arkansas history?! I don’t think so.”
Attempts to reach Davis and other former Razorbacks were unsuccessful Thursday.
Current Arkansas players also were not available for comment regarding the story, although some appeared to chime in via Twitter as well Wednesday night.
“Dont believe the lies,” Arkansas defensive back Jerry Mitchell tweeted after the story was published.
Arkansas endured one of its most disappointing seasons since entering the Southeastern Conference. It’s a downfall that began in April, when Bobby Petrino was fired by athletic director Jeff Long.
Smith was tabbed as the program’s head coach, agreeing to a 10-month contract that paid him $850,000. Every assistant remained on staff, too, agreeing to longevity bonuses offered by Long to help maintain continuity for a program that began the season ranked in the top 10.
But nothing went right for the Razorbacks, beginning with the early season loss to Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock. Quarterback Tyler Wilson, who was sidelined with a concussion for the Alabama game, called out his teammates after the loss saying he thought they “at times, gave up out there.”
Key players like Wilson (concussion), Davis (hamstring), linebackers Tenarius Wright (shoulder), Alonzo Highsmith (foot), Kiero Small (foot) and Chris Gragg (knee/leg) missed games because of injuries.
“There were some seniors who kind of hung it up, to be honest with you,” Petrino told The Sporting News. “They were going to worry about their futures more than that team. A couple seniors said they were hurt and I don’t know if they really were.”
Haynes told The Sporting News he didn’t blame any of the players for it.
“I don’t fault the kids for thinking that way,” Haynes said. “Again, there was no stability there. Again, it goes back to, ‘Who am I playing for?’ Once they can’t say, ‘We’re trying to save the coaches’ jobs’—if they’re just playing for the university, sometimes kids feel the university let them down.”
Every member of the 2012 Arkansas coaching staff has found a new job. Petrino and Haynes landed their first head coaching positions after the season and lead programs at Idaho and Kent State, respectively. Smith also was named head coach at Fort Lewis College last month.
The outgoing seniors are preparing for the 2013 NFL Draft. The group also includes Davis and guard Alvin Bailey, who skipped their final year of eligibility at Arkansas to enter the draft as juniors.
“Whats understood dont need to be explained ... My teammates already know what it is,” Bailey said via Twitter after The Sporting News story was published Wednesday night.
“On another note I hope all of my previous coaches have success at there (sic) new jobs.” Bailey added.