FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Running back Devwah Whaley has recovered from a bruised leg suffered in Arkansas’ regular-season finale at Missouri and is practicing, coach Bret Bielema said Monday.
Arkansas faces Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 29 in Charlotte, N.C.
Whaley rushed 8 times for 54 yards and a touchdown in the first half on Nov. 25 at Missouri. He didn’t play after halftime because of the injury, which happened when Whaley was “stepped on,” Bielema said.
Without Whaley, Arkansas didn’t score in the second half, blew a 17-point halftime lead and lost 28-24 to the Tigers, who finished 4-8.
Whaley — a true freshman — is Arkansas’ second-leading rusher this season behind starter Rawleigh Williams III. Whaley has recorded 601 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on 105 carries. He became more involved as the season progressed and got more comfortable with the college game.
Williams led the SEC during the regular season with 1,326 rushing yards.
“When we didn’t have another option to go to, that put everything on Rawleigh, and he was a little bit winded,” Bielema said of Whaley’s second-half absence at Missouri.
Arkansas’ offense was unable to do much in the red zone during the second half. The Hogs ran 8 plays from inside Missouri’s 10-yard line after halftime and came away with no points.
“It shows the validity that you’ve got to have two backs,” Bielema said.
Arkansas lost Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams to the 2016 NFL Draft and had to replace almost all of its rushing production this season. Williams — a sophomore — became the feature back, but Whaley showed flashes of the tremendous talent that made him one of the most highly recruited running backs in the country last year.
A 4-star running back from Beaumont, Texas, Whaley chose Arkansas over scholarship offers from Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Stanford, Texas and Texas A&M.
Besides having Whaley back for the Belk Bowl, sixth-year senior running back Kody Walker also might return. His college career was thought to be over after a nagging right foot injury that required surgery in October.