Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Williams heads Hogs’ option game
Arkansas' Jonathan Williams drives downfield in the fourth quarter during their game Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas running back Alex Collins was voted the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year, but Jonathan Williams would be the running back on which the Razorbacks most build their offense if they played today.
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema was asked recently about Williams, a junior from Allen, Texas, and Collins, a sophomore from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., being the foundation for Arkansas’ offense in 2014.
“I think J. Williams for sure,” he replied.
In Bielema’s view, Williams lettering for the Razorbacks in 2012, plus his participation the following winter in the offseason program and in spring practices while Collins was still in high school, manifested as the 2013 season stretched through November.
“J. Will is a kid that played better,” Bielema said. “There weren’t many kids on both sides of the ball that were playing stronger at the end of the year than the beginning of the year. One of those for sure, without a doubt, was Jonathan Williams. Just the way he ran the ball, his ball security was that much better. He was really good in tight situations, really wanted to put the ball in his hands on critical plays.”
Despite the Razorbacks’ 3-9 overall record and 0-8 SEC mark, Collins and Williams achieved some sensational stats last season.
Williams averaged 6.0 yards per carry while rushing 150 times for 900 yards and 4 touchdowns,and he caught 7 passes for 72 yards and 2 touchdowns. Collins was Arkansas’ rushing leader, surpassing 1,000 yards rushing with 1,066 on 190 carries for a 5.4-yard average and 4 touchdowns, and he caught 11 passes for 63 yards.
“Alex did some really good things, but he got looser with the ball as the year went on,” Bielema said. “He didn’t finish things as well as he did at the beginning. It was kind of expected, because he has not had nearly the growth and development in the physical side of college football that you need. So this spring is going to be a really big year for Alex.”
It also ought to be a really big spring for sophomore Korliss Marshall on both sides of the ball.
Though primarily a running back in high school, Marshall was recruited out of Osceola as a potential safety.
Nate Holmes, who recently transferred to McNeese State, was presumed to be the 2013 kick returner and a scatback alternative to Collins and Williams, but Marshall took command of those duties. He returned 19 kickoffs for 422 yards, including an 87-yarder. At running back, Marshall gained 146 yards on 17 carries for an 8.6-yard average.
“It’s going to be neat to see who moves into that hybrid between wide receiver and running back,” Bielema said. “We have some good candidates.”
None likely better than Marshall, but the secondary sure could use him and will get him to start spring drills.
“He will be at safety, but Korliss Marshall will play some offense and bring some excitement and ability to that side as well,” Bielema said. “He already knows a half a dozen plays on offense we feel good about that are staples in our program. He enjoys them, but I know he is also excited to be on the defensive side of the ball.”
Sports, Pages 20 on 01/25/2014