Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Adjectives flow with UA crop of backs
Arkansas' Jonathan Williams drives downfield in the fourth quarter during their game Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Sometimes a running back can be completely too good for his own good.
Not too good for his team's good, but for his own good regarding individual accolades, awards, perceptions and such.
Take note of adjectives often used to describe Arkansas Razorbacks running backs Alex Collins, Korliss Marshall and Jonathan Williams.
Shifty. Incredibly, breathtakingly shifty describes Collins, the 1,026-yard rusher on a 3-9 Razorbacks team in 2013. The high school All-American ran so well on a team so poor that he still was named SEC Freshman of the Year and earned spots on at least eight freshman All-America teams.
Fast -- incredibly fast -- describes Marshall, the sophomore from Osceola. Originally apprenticing as a redshirt safety in 2013, he burst into the lineup five games into the season as a kick returner and even popped one for 87 yards against SEC champion Auburn. He then stole the show at the Red-White game in April with his 99 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown, on only six carries.
Since that game you could listen to sports talk radio callers proclaim Marshall the best of the bunch. And they may be proven right.
Finally we come to Jonathan Williams, the older and wiser back. The junior is also the bigger back (6-0, 223 pounds), compared to Collins (5-11, 216) and Marshall (6-0, 203).
Complete. Solid. Dependable. Those are Williams' adjectives. They are adjectives wonderfully appreciated by coaches but on the fan excitement meter code tend to mean a Buick among Jaguars.
Kind of like "heady" and "overachiever" as terms of alleged endearment apt by fans to be code for athletically challenged.
Well before somehow relegating Jonathan Williams' contributions to be mostly unsung and pedestrian compared to Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall, here are some spectacular rebuttals.
Arkansas' longest run for 2013: Jonathan Williams, 75 yards.
In 2012 in the same game against Kentucky, Williams caught and ran with touchdown passes of 74 and 77 yards. Last season he became the first Razorback to have run, caught and passed at least one touchdown in the same season since Darren McFadden in 2007.
Williams has a way, Bret Bielema and his staff say. A solid way with pass protection and the fakes and blocks and little things leading to big plays for others but also a major playmaker himself.
"He is a guy that is very, very talented, explosive, powerful," Bielema said.
And in retrospect to late last season, underutilized, Bielema believes.
"My only regret toward the end of the year was that we didn't use him more," Bielema said. "Because he definitely, in my opinion, is one of the few players on our team that got stronger as the year went on. I think as coaches we've got to recognize that and be able to go to it."
Of course, get Bielema started on either Collins or Marshall and the superlatives flow, too.
"That's a good issue to have," Bielema said. "Every championship season I've ever been involved with we've been involved as a team that's had three running backs. Not one, not two, it's always been three."
Sports on 05/19/2014