Who will be Bret Bielema’s next 1,000-yard rusher?
That is one of the biggest questions facing Arkansas in 2016 as the Hogs look to replace Alex Collins, who is now with the Seattle Seahawks following three straight 1,000-yard seasons.
But Bielema’s list of productive running backs isn’t limited to his time in Arkansas. In each of Bielema’s 10 seasons as a head coach — seven at Wisconsin and the last three in Fayetteville — he has had at least one rusher eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.
Entering 2016, though, it’s anybody’s guess as to who will be the Razorbacks’ top rusher. The Hogs return senior Kody Walker and sophomore Rawleigh Williams III, but also add touted incoming freshman Devwah Whaley this season.
Continuing SEC Country’s nine-part series breaking down each of Arkansas’ position groups, today we look at the Hogs running backs.
Names you need to know
Kody Walker (redshirt senior), Rawleigh Williams III (sophomore), Devwah Whaley (true freshman), Damon Mitchell (redshirt junior), Juan Day (redshirt sophomore), T.J. Hammonds (true freshman)
Collins rushed for 1,577 yards and a school-record 20 touchdowns — breaking Bill Burnett’s nearly five-decade single-season touchdown record — last season, leaving big shoes to fill for the 2016 crop of Razorback ball carriers.
The two returning players most likely to take up the mantle are sixth-year senior Kody Walker and sophomore Rawleigh Williams III, who rushed for 394 and 254 yards last season, respectively. Walker added six touchdowns on the ground.
Williams suffered a scary neck injury that required immediate surgery during the Razorbacks’ Oct. 24, 2015, win over Auburn and returned to practice during the spring. Walker, meanwhile, suffered a broken foot during spring practice in mid-April, but is expected to be back at full strength by the time fall camp opens.
One name every Arkansas fan is excited about, though, is incoming true freshman Devwah Whaley, a four-star prospect who picked the Hogs over offers from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Texas.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that Whaley will be given every opportunity to be the main guy in the Arkansas backfield right out of the gate.
“I’m just gonna go in and work hard and try not to let a lot of the pressure build up,” Whaley told SEC Country during an exclusive interview in his home last month. “If I just do what I’m supposed to and work hard, everything should fall into place.”
Another true freshman who could get into the mix is Little Rock product and four-star prospect T.J. Hammonds, who is beginning his college career as a running back but might end up playing receiver.
Other Arkansas running backs include junior Damon Mitchell — who was recruited as a quarterback, then switched to wide receiver before switching again to running back before the 2015 season — and sophomore Juan Day.
Mitchell recorded 84 receiving yards, 29 rushing yards and a receiving touchdown last season, while Day has four career carries for 17 yards, all recorded in the fourth quarter last season against UT-Martin.
Other positions we’ve reviewed: