Williams, Collins form potent attack for Arkansas

BY foxsports • December 12, 2014

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) It's almost like Jonathan Williams never left Texas at this point, though Arkansas is more than happy to have him.

The standout running back will make his third trip back to his home state this season when the Razorbacks face the Longhorns in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 29.

Williams, from Allen, Texas, is one of the critical reasons for the sudden turnaround for Arkansas (6-6), along with backfield teammate Alex Collins. The two are the only teammates in major college football this season to have both topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark, and more of the same is expected against former Southwest Conference rival Texas (6-6).

''I can't say enough about both of them,'' coach Bret Bielema said. ''Those two bring a little tandem that is very, very cool to watch and really cool to be a part of.''

Williams and Collins both nearly reached 1,000 yards rushing last season, despite a 3-9 record in their first season under Bielema. While Collins became just the second freshman in school history to reach the mark with 1,026 yards, joining two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden, Williams came up just short with 900 yards on the ground.

This season, the duo started quickly and rarely let up while becoming the first pair to top the 1000-yard mark at Arkansas since McFadden and Felix Jones in 2007. The finished fourth and fifth rushing, respectively, in the Southeastern Conference as Arkansas reached its first bowl game in three seasons.

Williams led the way with 1,085 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns on 188 carries (5.8 average), while Collins - boosted by a 212-yard rushing performance at Texas Tech - finished with 1,024 yards and 12 touchdowns and a 5.5-yard per carry average.

''That's kind of the goal we wanted to achieve, just kind of have the balance between me and him,'' Collins said. ''It's just kind of like, we're always there for each other, just kind of so we always have fresh legs out on the field.''

Williams arrived at Arkansas in the wake of the Bobby Petrino scandal and was a freshman on the 2012 team coached by interim coach John L. Smith. He served as a backup to current Kansas City Chiefs running back Knile Davis that season and appeared primed for a starring role for the Razorbacks in 2013.

That is, until the signing of Collins out of Florida following the 2012 season.

Despite the initial uncertainty about how the two would share the spotlight in Arkansas' backfield, Collins said their relationship has evolved from friends ''into brothers.'' It's a bond formed out of mutual respect from the ever-shifty Collins and the bruising runner Williams.

''It's definitely come along, a lot,'' Williams said. ''Definitely from when he first came in here as a recruit to where it is now. We just feed off of each other, every day, whether it's in the meeting rooms, we're watching film or if it's out there on the football field.''

As good as the tandem has been the last two seasons, there is a chance the partnership could end after this season. Williams has submitted his pre-draft paperwork to the NFL to receive an evaluation of his draft status, though even he admitted he's not sure what kind of projection would be needed for him to leave school early.

Whether Williams leaves or not, he's proud of how he's worked with Collins - and how the Razorbacks rebounded this season after back-to-back losing seasons in his first two years of college.

''Last year, I feel like we kind of knew we could go in and compete, but this year every game we went into, we felt like we could be competitive and we could come out with the win,'' Williams said. ''Obviously, we didn't come out with every win, but going into every game we felt like we could.''

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