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.
Individual success has been a team effort
Arkansas' Jonathan Williams, left, slips past a defender Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, during the second quarter of the game against Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' football team may be coming off a 3-9 season, which included going 0-8 in the SEC, but Razorbacks are popping up as players to watch on the national level heading into the 2014 campaign.
Four Razorbacks since Monday have been placed on watch lists for national awards that will be announced in December.
Sophomore tight end Hunter Henry, from Little Rock's Pulaski Academy, was named Tuesday to the watch list for the Mackey Award. The award is given to the nation's top tight end and was won in 2010 by Arkansas' D.J. Williams.
On Monday the watch list for the Maxwell Award, which goes to college football's outstanding player, included Razorbacks running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins and the watch list for the Bednarik Award, given to the nation's outstanding defensive player, included senior Razorbacks defensive end Trey Flowers.
Presumably if Arkansas were coming off a better season, more Hogs would be up for national honors. But even after ending 2013 with nine consecutive losses after skidding to 4-8 in 2012, center Travis Swanson -- who has since signed with the NFL's Detroit Lions -- was named first-team All-SEC and an All-American by USA Today.
Chris Smith, a senior defensive end last season, and Flowers both were voted to some All-SEC second teams last season. Collins and Henry were voted All-SEC second team and to the All-SEC freshman first team. Collins, who rushed 1,026 yards, was named the SEC Freshman of the Year.
Williams, now a junior, didn't receive All-SEC recognition in 2013. Nevertheless, averaging 6.0 yards a pop with 900 yards on 150 carries was enough for him to be named to the 2014 Maxwell watch list.
But achievements, even on a losing team, require assistance from teammates.
Collins and Williams don't just miss combining for 2,000 rushing yards without Swanson's blocks. Swanson doesn't get nationally recognized without the tangible proof of the stats put up by Collins and Williams.
Henry doesn't get recognized as an all-round tight end without blocking for Collins and Williams, and their effectiveness helped him get open enough to catch 28 passes for 409 yards and 4 touchdowns.
How well the 2014 Razorbacks offense replaces key 2013 senior blockers Swanson, fullback Kiero Small and tackle David Hurd will be pivotal for Collins, Williams and Henry.
Flowers and Smith earned their 2013 recognition in part because of each other. They were so effective from opposite flanks that opposing offenses couldn't gang up on one side and run away from the other.
Flowers' opportunities to make plays in 2014 will hinge at least partially on sophomore end Deatrich Wise continuing the momentum he displayed late in the spring and if third-year sophomore end Brandon Lewis reports healthy after undergoing knee surgery following spring practice.
Sports on 07/09/2014