Few teams have accumulated the kind of depth at running back the way Arkansas has under head coach Bret Bielema. The Razorbacks will need it. Jonathan Williams will not play during the 2015 season, Bielema announced Monday.
The senior running back must undergo surgery on his left foot. The procedure figures to keep him off his feet, at least running on them, through December. In all likelihood, that could mean his career is over at Arkansas, although there is always room for a potential return for a bowl game. He can also still use a redshirt to come back and play one more season next fall, which may be advisable after deciding to skip out on the NFL this year in order to return to Arkansas.
Williams was the leading rusher for the Razorbacks last season, rushing for 1,190 yards and 12 touchdowns as one half of the dynamic duo at Arkansas. The other half, Alex Collins, also rushed for 1,000 yards last season and will now be looked upon to carry a bit more of the load this fall. He should be more than capable of handling primary running duties, but Bielema will likely find ways to help reduce the workload for Collins.
Coming back from one ACL injury for a running back can be extremely difficult to do. Doing so a second time can be even tougher. Arkansas running back Juan Day will have to do just that.
Yesterday, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema announced Day suffered a torn ACL during the team’s last spring practice prior to spring break. Bielema said Day underwent surgery on Monday and is already focusing on recovery. This is the second time Day has injured his ACL, now with one ACL injury in each knee. His previous injury came in high school and forced him to sit out his senior season.
Due to the injury, Day will be out for the remainder of the spring. It is currently unknown what his status for the 2015 season will be. If rehab goes well, he could be available in time for the fall, but Bielema has a track record of looking out for the best health conditions of his players. This might suggest Day should not be expected to be rushed back to the field if it poses any legitimate threat to his knee.
Arkansas should still be in good shape in the running department without Day, although the depth will take a hit. Last season’s leading rushers, Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, are each back after separate 1,000-yard seasons and 24 combined touchdowns. Day was expected to be the third running back in the offense.
Six schools from the sEC West are entering this weekend ranked in the top 25. You could probably make a case Arkansas is deserving of making it a clean sweep for the SEC West. The Razorbacks are the only team in the division not to be ranked, yet they are 3-1 and running the football about as well as anyone around the country. This weekend Arkansas takes on Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas. It should be the ultimate contrast of offensive styles
Arkansas is ranked eighth in the nation in rushing offense. The Razorbacks average 324.5 yards per game and 7.13 yards per rushing attempt. It is the style of offense Bret Bielema was expected to bring to Arkansas, and it is paying off. Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams have combined for 12 rushing touchdowns, which is more rushing touchdowns than 110 FBS teams entering the weekend. The only game Arkansas has lost this season came in the season opener on the road against defending SEC champion Auburn.
We all know Texas A&M goes a different way with its offense. Any team coached by Kevin Sumlin is going to throw the football. It was like that at Houston with Case Keenum and it remains that way at Texas A&M with Johnny Manziel and now Kenny Hill. The Aggies are ranked fourth in the nation in passing offense, averaging 405 yards per game through the air. Hill thrust into the early Heisman conversation by eclipsing 500 passing yards in week one against South Carolina.
There will be plenty of offense in this one. If Arkansas can keep the ground game going, thus using clock and putting up points, then Arkansas should be able to hang around long enough to have a chance to win. And if Arkansas wins, we could see all seven teams in the SEC West appearing in the top 25 on Sunday.
The watch list for the Maxwell Award, presented by the Maxwell Football Club, has been released and it includes many of the top offensive players in the country.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was an obvious name to include on the watch list. He is the lone returning 2013 Maxwell Award finalist this season and is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Other 2013 semifinalists appearing on the list include Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty.
Semifinalists for the Maxwell Award will be announced November 3, 2014. From that group, three finalists will be announced November 24, and the winner of the 2014 Maxwell Award will be announced December 11 during the annual Home Depot College Football Awards Show. The formal presentation of the award will take place during an annual banquet in Atlantic City, New Jersey on March 6, 2015.
The Maxwell Award has been presented to the top college football player in the country as determined by the Maxwell Football Club on an annual basis since 1937. The winner is not always the same player to win the Heisman Trophy. Where the Heisman Trophy has seen a share of underclassmen win the award over recent years, the Maxwell Award has a knack for going to upperclassmen. Last year’s winner was Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Penn State and Notre Dame are tied for the most Maxwell Award winners with seven each. Ohio State, Texas and Navy each have four.
Here is the 2014 Maxwell Award watch list:
The Paul Hornung Award watch list was also released today.
Arkansas (3-6, 0-5 SEC) wasted early opportunities and Tre Mason dominated on the ground as No. 8 Auburn (8-1, 4-1 SEC) put away Arkansas and continued to remain a factor in the SEC West. Mason rushed for 168 yards and four touchdowns as Auburn left Arkansas with a 35-17 victory.
Mason had two touchdowns in the first half to give the Tigers a 14-3 lead while the Razorbacks sputtered inside the red zone and Mason added two more touchdown runs in the second half. Auburn’s Nick Marshall did little in the passing game in the first half but provided one of the big plays of the game with an 88-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates midway through the third quarter to extend Auburn’s lead to 28-3.
Arkansas put up nearly 200 yards on the ground against Auburn, with Jonathan Williams rushing for 104 yards and Alex Collins rushing for 84 yards but turnovers doomed the Razorbacks early. Turnovers killed two red zone possessions for Arkansas as the Razorbacks dropped their sixth straight game after starting the year with a 3-0 start. One more loss for Arkansas, with games against Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU remaining, the Razorbacks will be ineligible for postseason play for the second straight year.
On the other hand, Auburn is rolling and could very well be heading in to The Iron Bowl as Alabama’s biggest threat to a BCS championship run. Auburn must still get by a road game at Tennessee next week and a home game against Georgia first. Auburn then hosts Alabama on November 30.