FAYETTEVILLE — Whether coaching against him as the Iowa State head coach or as Arkansas’ defensive backfield coach, Paul Rhoads sees a Knight in shining armor quarterbacking the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday night.
University of Oklahoma graduate and grad student transfer Trevor Knight, quarterbacks the AP No. 10 Aggies, 3-0 overall/ 1-0 in the SEC West, against No. 17 Arkansas, 3-0, in the Razorbacks’ 8 pm. ESPN televised SEC opener at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Rhoads, Iowa State’s head coach from 2009-2015 and previously Auburn’s defensive coordinator, twice coached Iowa State when Knight was the starter.
"I can remember telling (Oklahoma coach) Bob Stoops at (Big 12) Media Day how much I thought of him as a quarterback," Rhoads said. "I think he’s a great player. He was a two-time captain there before he left the program. That tells you what the kids (at Oklahoma) think of his leadership."
Apparently the Aggies think highly of Knight, too, upon him leading them past then No. 16 UCLA and Auburn in A&M’s 3-0 start.
"I think I am the only one on the staff besides Wally Burnham (Knight’s retired Iowa State defensive coordinator now assisting the Razorbacks in quality control) who has seen him," Rhoads said. "I know what he’s capable of. He is extremely athletic. He’s got a very gifted arm. He can make all the throws and he can get himself out of trouble like no other. He is fast, and athletic and he is elusive. He is all of this and he’s all of that and he has already led this team to a 3-0 record against two very high quality opponents."
Knight rushed 123 and 146 yards in two starts against OU and threw a touchdown pass as Baker Mayfield’s backup when OU defeated the Cyclones last year.
Knight quarterbacks a great Aggies’ supporting cast, Rhoads said.
"They have receivers who are as big and strong and athletic as we have certainly seen," Rhoads said. "I know Coach (Rory) Segrest (Arkansas’ defensive line coach) will tell you their offensive line is the same and running backs that are extremely talented. Top to bottom a lot of strengths and no weakness."
However Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and his staff don’t sell the Hogs short following their 21-20 season-opening squeaker over underdog Louisiana Tech by defeating then No. 15 TCU, 41-38 in double overtime in Fort Worth and routing Texas State, 42-3 last Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Regarding the secondary he coaches, Rhoads said, I am excited about what we have done thus far and how this week has started. They are a very intent group. They like to learn and like to be coached and there’s not much more a position coach can ask for."
Interesting that Arkansas senior linebacker Brooks Ellis found similarities in former A&M quarterback Kenny Hill transferred to TCU and Knight transferred from Oklahoma to A&M.
"I think he’s kind of similar," Ellis said when asked if Hill and Knight pose the same run-pass threats. "When a play doesn’t go his way he will do his own thing and make something out of it. He’s a good runner, too. We have to keep him in the pocket and keep him uncomfortable."
Few Hogs likely will arrive at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium any more intent than senior defensive end Deatrich Wise coming home growing up in Carrollton, Texas within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Redshirting on injury hardship when former Heisman Trophy winning A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies embarrassed John L. Smith’s Razorbacks, 58-10 in 2012 at A&M’s Kyle Field, and won, 45-33 in Fayetteville during Bielema’s 2013 Arkansas debut season, Wise came off bench during Arkansas’ heartbreaking overtime 35-28 and 28-21 losses to the Aggies at AT&T Stadium in 2014 and 2015.
"It’s tough, going in and doing well and often times losing in the last second," Wise said. "It’s very tough. We have fought hard overtime and got what we got. They just capitalize on everything that we mess up on. That’s been it. This year we feel we can do better."
Wise starts Saturday night’s game as an All-American candidate rivaling A&M 2015 All-American defensive end Myles Garrett for 2016 preseason accolades.
"He’s a really good player," Wise said when asked about Garrett. "He’s showed that he’s had fantastic years. I also want to show the world that I am also a great defensive end, too and that Deatrich Wise is one of the top ends in the nation."
Of course Wise and Garrett don’t battle head to head both playing defense. So it’s the Aggies as a team not A&M’s defensive end that Wise truly craves to surpass.
"I never did get recruited by any of the Texas schools," Wise said. "None of them. I guess I wasn’t good enough to play for anybody in Texas."
While a SEC game since 2012, at AT&T Stadium it’s also the Southwest Classic which Arkansas and A&M called its annual nonconference game there from 2009-2011.
Arkansas won those three SEC vs. Big 12 clashes leaving only sixth-year senior running back Kody Walker actively remaining from the Hogs’ last trophy triumph over A&M.
"One thing we haven’t won is that trophy," fifth-year senior Wise said. "That’s one thing I am looking forward to holding up after the game."