Arkansas pushing Wilson, Davis into Heisman talk
Posted: July 26, 2012 at 3:10 p.m.
FAYETTEVILLE If it seems to the average college football fan that Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis have been everywhere this summer, it's with good reason.
The duo has made appearances on national television and radio, and their comings and goings have been highlighted by a Twitter account created by the school.
The media blitz is part of a campaign by the Arkansas athletic department, one it hopes leads to the school's first Heisman Trophy winner this December.
Whether Wilson and Davis have the production this season to merit any Heisman talk has yet to be seen. What is clear is the two are already on the national stage, with every opportunity to eclipse former Arkansas running back Darren McFadden's back-to-back runner-up Heisman finishes in 2006 and '07.
"I think what you really want to do is, when the seasons starts, get your guys in the position where they're in the conversation, said Zack Higbee, Arkansas' director of football media relations. "They don't have to be the frontrunner or anything like that, just in the mix. And then from there it kind of handles itself."
Higbee is familiar with Heisman-winning campaigns, having worked at Florida when Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win the award in 2007. He said once the athletic department realized Tebow had a chance that season, it worked to get the quarterback "into any interview we could."
"If you remember, the guy was everywhere at the time," Higbee said.
Higbee said he first considered Wilson's Heisman chances following a school-record 510-yard performance in a 42-38 comeback win over Texas A&M last season. The then-junior went on to earn first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors, throwing for 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns while leading the Razorbacks to an 11-2 record and Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State.
Davis' Heisman hopes began two years ago as a sophomore when he led SEC running backs in rushing with 1,322 yards, but he missed all of last season with an ankle injury.
Both players talked with friends, family and current and former NFL players about whether to enter the April draft, including a conversation with Higbee about what the school's marketing plans were for the two if they returned to school. Then-coach Bobby Petrino asked Higbee to meet with the players before they made their decisions, likely in an attempt to entice them to return to school.
Individual awards weren't the final reason why Wilson or Davis chose to return, but once they did the school presented them with a written marketing plan — one that runs through the SEC championship game, should the Razorbacks win the SEC West.
"Obviously, the attention is nice, but I don't really think about that stuff too much," Wilson said. "We just need to win and all of that will take care of itself."
Higbee said the cost of the campaign, including mailers to Heisman voters and the school's football media guide, was "minimal" and built into the athletic department's annual budget. He said the Twitter account — the handle is (at) ARKTD2012 — was a public way to show the school's fans how it was attempting to reach Heisman voters and promote the Razorbacks.
Higbee also said both Wilson and Davis will have an advantage in their attempt to win the Heisman over McFadden through increased television exposure.
Ironically, Petrino's firing in April after admitting an affair with a football department staffer could possibly help Wilson and Davis' chances since the Razorbacks have been in the national spotlight since.
That is, if the wins and production are there.
"It all depends on them," Higbee said. "They've got to win."