Arkansas Developing Depth Behind Whaley

David  Williams and Chase Hayden could not be more different as running backs. Williams is a grad transfer from South Carolina with three years experience in the SEC. Hayden is a true freshman who has yet to play a down in a college football game. Williams is a 6-1 230 pound bruiser with excellent pass blocking skills. Hayden is a 5-9,  190 pound scatback who, as head coach Brett Bielema puts it, "can make something out of nothing." The two players do have one thing in common: They are both newcomers to the Arkansas football team and they each have put themselves in position to provide some badly needed depth behind sophomore Devwah Whaley.

Williams was set to transfer from South Carolina to UCONN for his final season of eligibility when he learned that Arkansas was looking to bring in an experienced running back following a career ending injury to leading returning rusher Rawleigh Williams last spring. He ended up a Razorback in no small part due to the efforts of Whaley.

"Devwah was his host so they got a chance to bond on his official visit," running backs coach Reggie Mitchell said of Williams. "Since David's been here he's been nothing but a good teammate. There's no animosity, no jealousy. It's pretty good chemistry."

"He's (Whaley) probably been one of the best assets for David," Bielema added. "They're always talking, conversing about football and where we're going."

Bielema, Mitchell and offensive coordinator Dan Enos have been high on Williams since he arrived early in the summer but his first test in a live tackling scrimmage produced mixed results. Among his 14 carries last Saturday were runs of 18 and 12 yards but Williams was also was dropped behind the line of scrimmage six times.

"On Saturday night I texted him and said, 'Hey, how did your first live carries as a Razorback feel?,' " Bielema recalled. "He said, 'Great, I was trying to press the envelope.' He wanted to make a big splash. Some 3rd and shorts he was trying to turn into home runs. I said, 'Hey those home runs will come. Just play to play.' "

Williams' numbers might not have been impressive but the head coach raved about his contribution through the first two weeks of August Camp.

"I couldn't be more happy with him," Bielema stressed. "His toughness, physicality, run performance but also block protection and he's got soft hands."

Hayden had an impressive debut in his first live tackling situation leading all backs with 103 yards on 10 carries including a 70 yard touchdown run leaving little doubt that the coaches are considering him as a third option at running back this fall.

"Last season we kind of brought Devwah along," Mitchell explained. "We didn't put too much on his plate. Then Cody (Walker) got hurt and Devwah had a bigger load so we kind of see that same thing unfolding. The third guy, get him a few carries just to get his feet wet and don't put him in a pressure situation."

Enos is enthusiastic about what he's seen from the two newcomers so far.

"Obviously we certainly would love to have Rawleigh back but with the addition of David and Chase I think we've got a couple guys that can really help us. I think that could be a position of strength for us," Enos told reporters.

As the only returning running back with extensive game experience in Arkansas' system Whaley has been the presumed starter from the moment that Rawleigh Williams announced he was giving up football. He had a solid effort in the scrimmage but his long run of 21 yards did not approach Hayden's flashy scoring burst.

"Devwah's been pretty consistent and steady but we haven't seen a huge breakaway type of play from him. Are you surprised that he hasn't had more of that?" a reporter asked Mitchell.

"No not at all," Mitchell answered. "He's gotten what's been there and more. He's taken advantage of his opportunities. You get a guy like Chase Hayden who has a big run and then you get some more guys, they may try to do something that's not in their skill set .  What's gonna happen for Devwah, he's a bigger guy and he's going to pound on 'em just like a heavyweight fight. Four yards, four yards, ten yards and then before you know it, it's gonna be that big run."

"Running back is the biggest change we've had in fall camp because of David Williams," Bielema declared, "and you brought  Chase in, who you knew was good on film, but you don't know (for sure) 'till they get here. I think the applied pressure of David Williams and Chase and (true freshmen running back) Maleek (Williams) has helped Devwah realize, 'I am not the man all by myself. If I want carries I got to earn 'em.' So he's been locked in since fall camp started."

But while there have been number of positives from Whaley, Williams and Hayden to date Enos wants more from them in the days ahead.

"We need to run the ball more consistently," he stressed. "We did a tremendous job of protecting the quarterback but we weren't real happy with how we ran the football. The good news is we didn't turn the ball over but every day is about being physical and run the football. Being physical and run the football. We're not there yet but we're certainly moving towards that."

The last hour of Saturday's workout/scrimmage at Razorback Stadium will be open to the public from 1-2 pm.


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